The Art and Science of the Interview Guide


A health video captures the concerted effort to improve a human being’s life and the lives of the people around them. It’s a story of hope and challenge. Certainly, it’s a story of overcoming. That’s what I try to elicit in developing an interview guide — the quality of storytelling.

Interviewing should give more than “I took this drug and that happened.” It should bring out a person’s journey, one that resonates, and makes the difference; from the impetus for starting treatment, to lifestyle issues, through survival. Clinical discussion of diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes will never build a bridge between human beings, but a health video can help the viewer appreciate what another person has gone through. Then they may say, “Maybe I can do it, too.” An individual’s story becomes universal.

The interview gives us information that defines the tension in a story. A person is having problems, their life has changed, and they don’t know what’s wrong. Bringing them along a path of diagnosis and interventions – some successful, some not – leads up to the dramatic climax, where things shift because of a treatment or procedures that worked, or a doctor who was willing to try something else.

For these messages to reach the viewer, you need to elicit empathy for the patient. Simple language that everyone can comprehend is critical to that communication. Scientific names for procedures, drugs, or diseases may be clinically precise, but they are often not understood and the message is lost. Listeners may feel you are not talking to them and quit listening. For example, most listeners understand the words “heart muscle problem” but fewer understand “cardiomyopathy.”

The interview guide from Dramatic Health explores the patient’s landscape to tell their story while adhering to medical, legal and regulatory requirements.  Who is the patient – occupation, location, lifestyle? What did they first notice? How did it affect their life? What drove them to treatment? Who encouraged and supported them through the process of finding treatment? What knowledge did they have to acquire to make a decision?

By asking questions in a way that elicits spontaneous answers, we can reveal the humanity of a patient. We can broaden their appeal and message through a compelling story told in powerful health video.


A board-certified neurologist with broad pharmaceutical industry experience in product development and safety surveillance, Dr. Paul has written and lectured extensively on health literacy and product safety. She earned her medical degree magna cum laude from the University of Texas Medical Branch.

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Posted in Kala Paul, Megaphone: Innovations in Health Video

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