3 ways that storytelling is improving healthcare and personalised medicine

Healthcare is full of stories – each patient has their unique story often reflected in their bodies and sometimes summarised in a simple medical record. Doctors and nurses have stories too –who their first patient was, what challenges they’ve faced and the moments of elation when they’ve successfully cured someone.

1. Strategic storytelling can change attitudes and behaviors.

Penn State College of Medicine researchers found that medical students ’ attitudes about dementia patients, who are perceived as difficult to treat, improved substantially after students participated in storytelling exercises that made them more sympathetic to their patients’ conditions. And a University of Massachusetts Medical School study found that a storytelling approach has also been effective in convincing populations at risk for hypertension to change their behavior and reduce their blood pressure.

Sound interesting? We suggest reading “Storytelling program helps change medical students’ perspectives on dementia”

2. Patients feel empowered and comforted when they share their stories.

Online patient communities have thrived over the last decade; patients are logging on to share their experiences in the hope that their story could help someone else. This sharing of concerns, challenges and successes brings people, who often feel alone and isolated, together. Storytelling is their common medium; whether they are only starting their journey, reaching its climax or nearing it’s end. Public sharing can be meaningful and therapeutic – for those who muster the courage to tell their story there is great benefit in both reflecting as well as receiving support from the audience as a gift. 

Want to know more? We suggest reading “Storytelling for Health: Doctor promotes intimate patient narratives”

Choice in the NHS: real stories

3. Narrative medicine – knowing how to listen to stories makes you a better doctor.

Effective medicine requires narrative competence, or the ability to absorb, interpret and act on the stories and troubles of others. Illness scenarios from real patients are so powerful that in addition to eliciting empathy they can also entirely alter the way the patient, doctor, and society perceive the condition and care. Honoring the power of these narratives can help doctors to ally with their patients as well as helping them to understand the social context—and stigma—of disease. 

Want to learn more about narrative medicine? Read more here.

Stories and personalised medicine

At Geneix we are interested in the story of personalised medicine.

Reactive to preventative

Tailored treatment has the potential to move the current paradigm from reaction to prevention but this requires deep knowledge of a patient’s story – how does this story usually end? Can I change the ending? When is the right point in the patient journey to intervene? 

The one-size-fits all story of healthcare will change.

Each patient has their own story – personal to them. This story is reflected in their medical record, perhaps with scars or symptoms and even in their genes. Greater understanding of what makes their story unique empowers their doctor to say – ‘this drug is not for everyone, but it is for you.’

Doctors have a story – personalised medicine will help it evolve.

Pharmacogenetics is not yet a standard part of most doctors’ story. In order to make it a valuable and common part we first need to understand, in depth, the current pathway/journey and where personalized medicine fits in. Then we need to put together a new, compelling story, one that has the power to change behavior and attitudes.  Only then will personalised medicine become a reality.