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Patient Educ Couns. 2012 Sep;88(3):455-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2012.06.012. Epub 2012 Jul 6.

A novel process for integrating patient stories into patient education interventions: incorporating lessons from theater arts.

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  • 1Center for Health Quality, Outcomes and Economic Research,Department of Veterans Affairs, Bedford, MA, USA.



Patient narratives, or stories, are an effective means of educating patients because they increase personal relevance and may reduce counter-arguing. However, such stories must seamlessly combine evidenced-based health information while being true to real patient experiences. The purpose of this paper is to describe the process of developing an educational intervention using African-American patients' success stories controlling hypertension.


We identified a process to address stories development challenges.


(1) To help identify story tellers, we conducted a literature review and subsequently streamlined the process of storyteller identification through screening and telephone interviews. (2) To better elicit stories, we consulted with experts in storytelling and incorporated principles from theater. (3) To select stories, we used intervention mapping to map the intervention to theory and key clinical concepts, and also engaged members of the target community to ensure scientific criteria and maintain authenticity.


Using personal narratives as intervention requires weaving together science, theory and clinically sound content, while still being true to the art of storytelling. Through a careful process of identifying storytellers and story selection and drawing upon theater arts, creating stories for intervention can be streamlined while meeting the goals of authenticity and scientific soundness.

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