Life story interviewing: Defining successful patient drug outcomes
  • April 11, 2019

Life story interviewing: Defining successful patient drug outcomes

Life-story interviewing is a technique that provides a holistic understanding of patients’ lives, from birth to current day.

The benefits of life story interviewing

  • Explores a person’s individual experiences within a macro-historical framework (their life-history)
  • Combines an understanding of both the psychological and sociological aspects of people’s lives (their internal thoughts and feelings as well as their environment and context)
  • Offers more opportunities to be ‘surprised’ as you’re not just asking direct questions focussed around a medical condition
  • The results are more engaging, as the method allows you to get to know people and share their stories to contextualise insights

Client example

In 2016 we were commissioned to explore the potential of a new treatment for a neurological condition amongst patients across a number of geographies. Taking a life story approach, the project explored the potential of the treatment based on an understanding of:

  • Symptom burden and day-to-day difficulties
  • Treatment experiences and treatment burden
  • Perceptions of what ‘successful treatment’ would look like
  • The impact a new, better treatment could have
  • Drivers and barriers to participating in clinical trials and trying new drugs

People who took part in the study were asked to do three things: Firstly, they completed a pre-interview task in their own time during which they mapped out key moments in their life history. Secondly, an unstructured in-depth interview was conducted based on the pre-task data, during which we explored key aspects of people’s lives including their childhood, education, family, citizenship, social life and relationships. Importantly, this interview does not focus on a medical condition, it asks people to tell their personal life story. A week later, and having explored the interview data from part one, a second follow-up interview was conducted which focussed in more depth on the condition but in the context of their life history that they had shared.

The final report allowed us to present an assessment of the new potential treatment in the context of participants ‘past self’ (their identity, background, personal story), ‘current self’ (the day-to-day impact of the condition), and ‘future self’ (their hopes, aspirations and desires).  The analysis combined both thematic lessons learned from the whole group, but we were also able to personalise the insights using real-life case studies.

Finding out more

For more information about our work and to discuss how our range of qualitative techniques can help you get closer to patients’ lives, please contact:

Ben Hickman, Research Director,

+44 0161 605 0862