Patient life journey interviewing: A guide

An interview is a great way to gain an in-depth understanding of someone’s experience: what happened to them, how they felt about it, and what they would change if they could. It’s a practical method for collecting consumer experience data that can improve decision-making. 

An interview of this kind can be conducted by telephone or in person. Face-to-face interviews are recommended where possible. These allow you to observe non-verbal cues that can help you understand what was important to the storyteller, and to use non-verbal communication yourself to encourage the storyteller to share what was important to them. A face-to-face interview also means that storytellers can have a carer or support person with them if they’d like to. Telephone interviews have the advantage of allowing you hear from people who might have difficulty travelling to meet you, or who don’t live in your immediate area. However you lose non-verbal cues and it may be more difficult to build rapport over the phone. 

                                           

This tool-kit provides advice about conducting semi-structured interviews. These can be described as a lightly structured interview, with a respectful but informal feeling. It may help to consider them as ‘structured conversations’.

The advantages of this approach include:

  • It allows people to tell their own story and highlight what is important to them;
  • The interviewer can make sure that key issues have been considered and that issues are explored in depth where appropriate;
  • Unlike in written testimonials or case studies, interviewers can check they’ve understood or ask extra questions;
  • Unlike most surveys, interviews allow a wide-ranging exploration of a person’s experience over time, with many services and in different settings; and
  • The Patient Life Journey framework gives you a flexible structure to help interviewees to tell their story, and help interviewers to understand it. 

Remember that the patient life journey framework and much of the advice about semi-structured interviewing can also be applied to other settings. For example the open-ended questions suggested in this section may also be modified or used in group consultation settings. You could also apply them in ‘everyday’ informal opportunities to converse with and learn about consumer experiences.