Information Gathering in Investigative and Medical Interviewing: Drawing Parallels Across Contexts

Sonja P. Brubacher*, C. Gilligan, K. S. Burrows, M. B. Powell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Information gleaned from a patients’ medical history is a core determinant of a medical diagnosis. Accurate and effective history-taking is, therefore, a foundational skill for medical practitioners and is introduced early in medical training. Recognizing and developing the skills of effective medical interviewing is an ongoing challenge for medical students and experienced clinicians alike. Important parallels exist between the information gathering skills required in medicine and health, and those required in investigative interviewing. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 19 experienced medical professionals from a range of specialty areas. They were asked about the role of the medical interview in their discipline, and about challenges they experience when gathering information from patients. Both theory-driven and grounded-theory approaches were used in combination to identify common themes. The interviews were rich with themes including approaches to introductory phases of the interview, eliciting a narrative account, and several topics that specifically paralleled issues in interviewing of vulnerable witnesses. We explore these themes through a lens of investigative interviewing by applying the knowledge of effective interviewing skills and structures to the data gained from the medical context. In general, themes indicated that there are numerous parallels to information gathering approaches in both contexts. As such, there may be scope for medical education to adopt some of the training techniques employed in the investigative interviewing field. Further, it is hoped that the present findings be used to spark an interdisciplinary conversation about communication from which both sides can learn.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-528
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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