Being a patient means dealing with diagnoses and treatments, but each person also has an entire life story that extends far beyond the medical history that appears in their chart.
This idea is the focus of the My Life, My Story program, which was started by the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin in 2013. Writers visit admitted veterans and record 1,000-word biographies, which are then edited by the patients before being added to their electronic medical records. Since the beginning of the program, more than 2,000 veterans have had their life stories recorded, and other hospitals have started similar programs.
“It gives you a much better understanding about the entirety of their life and how to help them make a decision,” said VA surgeon Dr. Jim Maloney. Of the clinicians surveyed at the Madison VA hospital, 85% said they felt reading the stories improved patient care, and studies show that this sort of empathy can lead to better health outcomes for patients.
Learn more about My Life, My Story from NPR.