Using stories to help patients make sense of complex information

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In this blog, Diana Stilwell describes how patient stories can be used in patient education to help engage, inform, reassure, persuade, motivate, or model behavior.  She argues that when used appropriately, stories can add real value for people facing hard health choices, without unduly biasing their decisions.  

She describes a number of approaches that may help minimize the potentially biasing effects of patient stories, including: being clear about their purpose within the overall context of the other information provided; including stories that show all the options; steering clear of stories that are overwhelmingly vivid or melodramatic; and asking both patients and clinicians during the development process if the information, including the facts and stories, feels balanced or if it feels slanted toward or against any particular treatment option.

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