How patient stories are re-shaping health care

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  • Patient Commando says:

    Every patient has a story and the very act of telling it makes us feel good. When a story comes from an honest place and is well told, it has the power to change lives. Lorraine Bayliss’ testimony of the impact of the Type 1 Diabetes Think Tank Network is evidence of what happened there. This 2 minute video gives you an overview of the impact of story not only on patients but on health care professionals as well .

    The importance of the patient narrative can’t be trivialized any longer. Studies confirm that patients are interrupted in less than 18 seconds. Professional education needs to give HCPs the skills to listen actively. Patient stories can be like a journey in Alice’s Wonderland, requiring the practitioner to dive into a murky darkness to excavate the true meaning.

    We’re seeing this happen in early training in such programs as the Health Mentor initiative at the U of Toronto Centre for Interprofessional Education and in post grad programs such as Columbia University’s Master Program in Narrative Medicine.

    The program that Lorraine participated in is a powerful adaptation designed to bring meaningful understanding of story to seasoned HCPs. Semi-facilitated storytelling has the power to enable HCPs with improved communication skills and a richer understanding of the patient experience. The evidence supports that outcomes and practitioner empathy improve as a result.

    The work of Type 1 Diabetes Think Tank Network is ground breaking by offering both Patients and HCPs an opportunity to acquire skill sets that build a stronger and more effective therapeutic relationship. It’s an excellent model of an equal collaboration between patients and professionals that delivers long term benefit to each as well as contributing to a more sustainable health care system at a very small cost.

  • Colette Wagner says:

    It’s important to understand the patient n family perspective.

  • Rob Murray says:

    The importance of people-driven solutions and human-cantred design is becoming recognized in many fields like architecture and planning. It requires professionals with an interest in people and who willing to take the time to listen and respond appropriately to the conclusions reached. It is usually well worth the effort. It was Sir William Osler who said listen to your patients they are giving you the diagnosis. The modern system seems to be to test first , wait for the test and treat to the test. This has severe limitations when the test is poor and practitioners are told that all patients are subjective and unreliable like in Lyme disease and so there is a tendency to dismiss them and give them an inferior diagnosis like fibromyalgia even when thousands of similar case histories are given. It is not always science based medicine to begin with.

  • Mike Fraumeni says:

    One of the major issues I believe is that medicine has become impersonal with the paradigm of “evidence based medicine” and “clinical practice guidelines” “statistical quantitative medicine” if you will, which is based primarily on population type studies and that physicians, nurses and other allied health care professionals are under increased scrutiny to practice according to “best practice”, a misnomer really, guidelines for fear of being sued or for malpractice. And this is very unfortunate because patient stories are left behind and not recognized for the real qualitative value that these stories contain, valuable information that can help the health care system simply become better and more responsive to individual patients needs. There needs to be a new paradigm of health care practice that goes beyond population based studies and focuses on the individual aspect of care for each patient. This piece in the Hamilton Spectator is illuminating where a Vice-President of Cancer Care Ontario explains outcomes for his catchment area that seems to be performing below standard, saying “We follow the guidelines”. This approach is not sufficient to really approach what is termed “best practice medicine” however it indicates the pressures from government that local hospital administrators are under to explain outcomes. I believe medical and health care practice is at a crossroads in Canada where a new approach that goes beyond “evidence based medicine” is recognized. Article:


Vanessa Milne


Vanessa is a freelance health journalist and a form staff writer with Healthy Debate

Francine Buchanan


Francine Buchanan is a mom and primary caregiver to an amazing little boy who is thriving with complex medical needs. When she isn’t watching or playing baseball with her family, she is a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto studying physician/patient communication.

Joshua Tepper


Joshua Tepper is a family physician and the President and Chief Executive Officer of North York General Hospital. He is also a member of the Healthy Debate editorial board.

Jeremy Petch


Jeremy is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and has a PhD in Philosophy (Health Policy Ethics) from York University. He is the former managing editor of Healthy Debate and co-founded Faces of Healthcare

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