Great patient storytelling can take many forms and serve numerous purposes. In our digital world, stories are told every day using blogs, videos and podcasts. And it’s easier than ever to reach target audiences through various social platforms or branded channels.
Every patient has a story to tell. For pharmaceutical brands, getting the right patient story to the right patient at the right time should be an overriding marketing objective. And today’s digital marketers have all the tools at their disposal to achieve this goal. After all, research shows that authentic storytelling, done well, is a powerful method for teaching, connecting and inspiring change.
Patient stories provide emotional support and connection
It is very common for patients who are living with chronic conditions or facing serious illness to feel fearful and alone. They need reassurance and empathy. However, only about half of patients report experiencing compassionate care from their healthcare providers.
Narrative medicine is defined as “a clinical practice of developing more empathetic relationships between medical clinicians and patients.” Healthcare providers can use patient storytelling to communicate more empathically, provide care with more compassion and strengthen the provider-patient relationship, which have been shown to promote patient engagement and satisfaction and may improve health outcomes.
Many patients seek to connect with others who understand. They can find these connections with patient stories – relating to a story helps them feel less alone, better connected and more supported. As a storyteller reflects on his or her healthcare journey, patients, caregivers and providers gain a deeper understanding and awareness of the experience of living with a medical condition.
Examples of supportive communities include:
- The Mighty is a digital community that aims to “empower and connect people facing health challenges and disability.”
- MedHelp says it provides “an informative, safe and supportive experience.”
- HealthUnlocked claims to be the “world’s largest online support group.”
Patient stories educate
The goal of patient education is to inform patients so they can participate responsibly in their care. Today, there are multiple barriers to educating patients on their conditions and medications, including: time constraints during clinical encounters, low health literacy, learning styles, culture and language.
All these factors can keep patients from following through on their treatment plans or properly adhering to their medications. Even under ideal circumstances, patient education is often misunderstood or misinterpreted. Research shows that patients understand and retain less than half of what their providers explain to them. This can lead to medication misuse, adverse events and poor outcomes.
Patient stories can be used as a tool to break through these barriers. Effective storytelling presents health information in an easily understood and compelling way. It can help people retain complex information and address health literacy barriers. As pointed out in an article in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, “hearing the stories of others, reflecting on these stories, and determining how these stories can be applicable to one’s life may be more beneficial than simply reading written information or watching an educational video.”
Examples of patient stories that educate:
- Overcoming Hypoglycemia to Own My Diabetes is the personal story of a woman with Type 2 diabetes sharing how she learned to recognize and treat hypoglycemia.
- Get Real About Diabetes is a branded educational site that uses a paid spokesperson to share his lessons about living with diabetes.
- Enjoying every second of my life – while preventing a second heart attack is the personal story of a heart attack survivor sharing what she has learned about preventing another.
Patient stories inspire and motivate
The real “superpower” of patient storytelling lies in its ability to inspire positive behavioral change. Living with a disease can make a person feel tired, overwhelmed, unsure, and denial. Making the changes necessary to improve or manage that condition can seem insurmountable.
And then this individual reads or listens to a story about someone who has faced the same disease and felt the same way, and successfully took steps to improve their health. The perspective changes with the realization there is hope. It can be done. The person now feels empowered to start making changes.
The science behind storytelling has proven time and again that meaningful stories invoke emotion and inspire behavior change. The more a story resonates with a patient, the more likely he or she will change. Stories can encourage patients to seek medical help, keep follow-up appointments, follow their medication regimens and share their story with others.
Here are 3 examples of patient stories that inspire:
- Ovarian cancer patient thankful for immunotherapy clinical trial is one of Mayo Clinic’s top read patient stories.
- Getting Past the Guilt of Type 2 is a video in which a woman shares how she motivated herself to make positive changes to manage Type 2 diabetes.
- Heart Failure Story: Mike and Beth is a sponsored video that shares the inspirational story of a patient and his caregiver.
Whether your objective is to connect with, educate or inspire your target audience, patient storytelling is the most powerful tool in your marketing toolbox for influencing behavior. Start harnessing the power of storytelling by requesting a meeting today!