The process of interviewing patients for healthcare research requires a highly refined sensitivity to the patient’s feelings and behavioural cues, and it involves much more than simply asking a series of questions. The process or strategy you will need to follow is likely to change depending on the patient, but in order to conduct a successful interview and collect the data you need, you will need to extend beyond the realms of professionalism and create a trusting relationship. By doing so, you will not only enable your patient to feel comfortable enough to share with you, but you will learn how to approach certain, possibly difficult, subject matters with them, and ultimately get better results for your research.
Conversation with a purpose
As you learn to elicit the patient’s history, you will find that drawing on many of the interpersonal skills that you use every day will work effectively, but will need to ensure that your purpose for conversing is always at the centre of the conversation. It’s fine to veer away from the topic, as long as you have a clear idea of how you will relate back to it, and unlike social conversation, in which you would naturally express your own opinions and interests, your primary goal is to gather information, so you should concentrate on simply being a good listener.
Relating effectively with patients will be one of your most valued skills; while you will be focusing your energy on gathering information, by using techniques to promote trust and convey respect, you can establish supportive interaction that will help the patient feel at ease and encourage them to tell their story or history in more detail.
Preparing and adapting your techniques
As you would do when conducting any interview, it is imperative that you prepare, especially when you are likely to be meeting a wide variety of individuals, each one unique. Each patient will differ to the next, so if your research requires you to interview a number of them, you will need to prepare for each one individually, taking into consideration age, social class, race and the various states of health of illness. In order to approach each patient sensitively, you must also look inward and examine your own expectations and possible reactions to what they may tell you. Self-reflection before an interview of such an important subject matter is necessary to help establish that all-important relationship.
You must also be prepared to adapt the techniques or strategy you have prepared. The time of day, state of illness and various other circumstances can affect how your patient is feeling and consequently how they react to you. For example, a patient you had expected to be chatty may suddenly be silent, a hard-of-hearing patient’s condition may have worsened or you could be faced with a patient who is more interested in talking about you – these are all situations you must expect and be ready to deal with. You can help yourself by doing as much research on the patient and your subject matter prior to the interview.
While conducting healthcare research is an essential task, it should never come at the expense of a patient’s well-being. Sensitivity is crucial to not only ensuring your patients feel comfortable, but that your research is able to be carried out effectively. DCC has a long and experienced history of working in healthcare data capture, assisting in data collection for successful monitoring and improvement. They can offer complete systems administration and management of an investigation, help with regular monthly data submissions or one-off case studies amongst many of their services available. Contact us to find out how DCC could help your healthcare data capture project this year.