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HealthTalk Interactive

By David Mendosa

Last Update: January 3, 2001

Just because "HealthTalk Interactive" interviewed me for its Web site a couple of months ago, it doesn't mean that it's worth writing about here. In fact, the interview could have been a disaster for both the site and me.

You can listen or read—or both

Ever since I was able to hear delayed broadcasts of myself covering a high school basketball games many years ago, I realized that I had no future as a public speaker. I have resolutely refused every broadcast opportunity since then—until Andrew Schorr somehow persuaded me otherwise.

The founder and executive producer of HealthTalk Interactive, Andrew is a seasoned medical broadcaster. His idea was to create a new, interactive communications channel for patients and their families.

The unique thing about HealthTalk Interactive is that you can chose to listen to or read about 98 percent of the site's content. Even better, you can do both at the same time. All you need is a free program called RealPlayer, which you can download from the HealthTalk Interactive site, if you don't already have it.

But why take the time to listen to an interview when reading is quicker? Andrew points out two different reasons.

 "If you can listen to the exact words, that extra channel can add a lot," he says. "Do they really believe it, or do they just say it in an offhand way?"

Those who are vision-impaired or have difficulty manipulating a mouse and keyboard can also benefit from listening to the interviews.

Of the "HealthTalk devotees" about 60 percent say they listen as well as read, according to Andrew's data. Of all visitors, about one-third listen. The typical interview takes about 20 minutes.

The HealthTalk Interactive Diabetes Education Network is one of the site's 12 Patient Education Networks. Most diabetes interviews are with endocrinologists, but some are with what Andrew calls "pathfinders," people who are dealing with the disease.

HealthTalk Interactive is able to make the findings of its endocrinology experts quickly available. "It's not text based," he says. "We are not waiting for article to be written or clinical papers to be published."

Pathfinders include celebrities who have diabetes like Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, and Jerry Mathers, star of the "Leave It to Beaver" TV series. Then there are family pathfinders, where they interview the whole family, and finally the plain pathfinders.

The category of plain pathfinder includes the interview with me. What saved it was the skill and preparation of the producer and interviewer.

The producer for the Diabetes Education Network is Amy Gray. She does the initial contact, research, pre-interview, and then writes a script, "a skeleton to hang the interview on," she says.

Gina Tuttle, who herself has type 1 diabetes and whose husband is type 2, was the one who interviewed me after Amy's pre-interview. "We generally use Gina, because she is a professional broadcaster," Amy says. "She takes the information and does the interview, then we have it transcribed and edit it to remove long pauses and awkward moments."

It was Gina's contagious enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject together with Amy's careful preparation that made the interview a success in my eyes. That and some judicious editing out of my flubs.

But as happy as I am with the outcome, don't expect to hear that I've become a regular broadcaster. Writing comes a lot easier for me than speaking. My interview for HealthTalk Interactive—like the site itself—is one of a kind. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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