Narratives and Stories: Novel Approaches to Improving Patient-Facing Information Resources and Patient Engagement

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2019 Aug 9:265:175-180. doi: 10.3233/SHTI190159.


Patient-centered healthcare requires development of materials for health consumers that increase health literacy, enrich the provider-patient dialog, empower shared decision-making, and improve downstream outcomes. Unfortunately, evidence suggests current methods of communication, including print and electronic media, are inadequate. The Narrative Theory of Learning is grounded in the premise that humans define their experiences and form cognitive structures (e.g., new learning, novel concepts) within the context of narratives. Simply put, humans remember stories better than fragmented bits of information. Therefore, we propose leveraging the power of narratives and stories to improve the efficacy and impact of consumer health applications. We describe several examples of future technologies that could incorporate narrative techniques and present a call to action for future research and development.

Keywords: Usability engineering; consumer informatics; health information technology; health literacy; implementation science; quality improvement.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Decision Making
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Narration
  • Patient Participation*