Storytelling Helps Convey Science, Medical Data in Tangible Ways

WHYY News (Philadelphlia, PA), May 15, 2013


Geriatrician Jason Karlawish says stories have a unique power to motivate. A study in Alabama found that patients with high blood pressure were more likely to manage their illness after hearing other people recount success at getting their own diet and stress under control.

“Compared to just the standard dump of facts about what are the good things to do and what are the right medicines to take — embedding treatment recommendations in stories of real patients,” Karlawish said. “People can identify with that, take ownership and better adhere to treatment over time.”

Lung specialist John Hansen-Flaschen works in the intensive care unit, the place where staffers care for the Penn hospital’s sickest patients.

“So often in intensive care we meet our patients sedated and mechanically ventilated, we don’t know them any other way,” Hansen-Flaschen said.

“These assemblies of photographs, the shrines that people assemble in the hospital rooms give us an opportunity to get to know our patients more completely,” Hansen-Flaschen said. “That’s my father, that’s my brother, that’s my son lying there and this is his world and the life he comes from.”

That knowledge — beyond each patient’s bare-bones diagnosis and symptom — makes him a better doctor, he said.


Subjects Covered: education, medicine

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top