VA hospitals use storytelling to strengthen patient-provider relationships

About 40 U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs hospitals around the country are looking to use storytelling as a method for improving patients' relationships with their healthcare providers, according to NPR.

The effort was inspired by a program called My Life, My Story, which launched in 2013 at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wis.

Elliot Lee, MD, laid the groundwork for the program in 2012 as a medical resident at the Madison VA. He wanted to help physicians get to know their patients better and came up with the idea of having a writer interview patients about their lives. The writer then summarized patients' stories in thousand-word biographies, which were attached to the patients' medical records for clinicians to read.

Today, more than 2,000 Madison VA patients have their life stories included in their medical charts, and more than three dozen VA hospitals nationwide are also looking to develop a storytelling program.

Research suggests that patients have better health outcomes when their providers know more about them. Healthcare providers also appreciate the storytelling method: a survey at the Madison VA showed that 85 percent of clinicians considered reading patients' stories to be a valuable use of clinical time.

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