Narrative medicine and the personalisation of treatment for elderly patients

Eur J Intern Med. 2016 Jul;32:22-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2016.05.003. Epub 2016 May 19.


Healthcare organisations, medical knowledge and clinical practice are among the contexts that have most strongly felt the impact of the over 75 population. This is a population of multimorbidity and polypharmacy patients. They are often seen as a conglomeration of juxtaposed guidelines resulting in the intake of more than 10 drugs a day, with absolutely no certainty of their efficacy. The scientific community is increasingly calling into question the current disease-focused approach. Narrative medicine can provide the tools for a treatment plan which is instead more patient-centred. Narrative medicine can promote the development of a systemic, integrated and multi-disciplinary approach to elderly patients. The stories of patients and caregivers, their representations, perceptions, experiences and preferences can reduce the risk of inappropriate tests and treatments. They can promote deprescribing procedures based on a careful analysis of a specific patient's needs. Narration time is treatment time which does not necessarily create a burden on organisations and caregivers. Quite the contrary since by facilitating adherence and team work, it can significantly reduce time and costs. Given their training and the importance of their relationship with elderly patients, internists, together with geriatricians, can play a key role in promoting and coordinating a narrative medicine approach.

Keywords: Aging; Elderly patient; Multimorbidity; Narrative medicine; Personalisation; Polypharmacy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Deprescriptions
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine
  • Medication Adherence
  • Multiple Chronic Conditions / therapy*
  • Narration*
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Polypharmacy