Key takeaways in this post:

  • Break through digital noise with a strong hook to your article.
  • Make each patient the star to establish an emotional connection with your audience.
  • Consider your reputation a supporting role in patient stories — it’s their personalized take that provides credibility.

Every statistic has a human story behind it. Many of them, in fact. Tap into the human side of healthcare by putting a human face on a medical condition. Readers feel empathy for the patient’s struggles and successes, which creates a deeper impact than dry facts or statistics. Before you write your next patient story, here are three key things your patient testimonials may need.

Our attention spans are limited. A solid hook in the beginning grabs the reader right away, pulling them into your story and making them want to hear more.

The hook helps the audience begin to relate to the patient’s testimonial on an emotional level. This makes them more invested in what they’re reading and more likely to connect with you.

When Atticus first started complaining of headaches, his mom, Maria,  thought the third grader just wanted to stay home from school. But gradually, Atticus’ symptoms grew more severe.

In January 2021, Maria got a call from Atticus’ pediatrician that would change their family’s lives forever. “His pediatrician asked, ‘Are you home?’ and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ He said, ‘I can’t talk to you until I know you’re safely home.’ And I just said, ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God.’”

This hook in Atticus’s story from Cincinnati Children’s quickly escalates from the common parent concerns (Is my child sick or faking?) to a level of urgency.

Screenshot of Cincinnati Children's patient story Proton Therapy and Child Life Teams Help Atticus Battle Brain Cancer

Make the patient or caregivers the star, not your doctors or facility. Your organization plays a featured role in helping your patient through their health journey, but ultimately the story is theirs to be told.

The strong hook helps you fall in love with bubbly 3-year-old Dylan, and then thrusts you into the uncertainty his parents face as they navigate his early developmental challenges and prepare for surgery for a cleft lip. 

Phoenix Children’s team members play a strong supporting role, from surgeons to feeding therapists, but ultimately the story is about Dylan and his parents. Their story offers encouragement and a sense of community for patients facing similar challenges.

Screenshot of Phoenix Children's patient story A cleft lip and palate can't hold back Dylan.

3. Be strategic about weaving in your reputation

Integrating information about a hospital or provider’s reputation into a patient story can be a delicate dance. The core of the story should be the patient’s journey, struggles or triumphs. Information about the healthcare team should complement this narrative.

Instead of directly stating your reputation, weave details from the patient’s experience that subtly paint a picture of the care they received. If the hospital offered unique resources or programs that helped the patient or their family, highlight them in the story. This showcases your commitment to patient care.

This can be accomplished even when health stories don’t have a happy ending. Laurie’s story of losing her husband to head and neck cancer highlighted the importance of early cancer detection and going to the doctor. While her husband’s cancer wasn’t caught early, innovative treatments at Providence ultimately extended his life. As a result, friends and family established a cancer research endowment in his honor at Providence. A simple paragraph quickly establishes Providence’s commitment to treating head and neck cancers.

Screenshot of Providence's patient story Get screened, says wife who lost her husband to neck cancer.

Reputation doesn’t need to stem from awards, grants or other accolades, however. Consider describing positive interactions with compassionate nurses, clear communication from doctors or a supportive hospital or clinic environment. 

While caregivers and patients expect the best when it comes to an emergency situation, particularly one that involves an ICU stay, knowing they have compassionate care matters just as much as technical quality, as shown in Madeline’s story from Atlantic Health System.

“I was very sick and I felt like I was teetering on life and afterlife,” says Madeline. “Dr. Alderson was such a source of comfort to me. She showed up at my bedside donned in her pandemic hazmat suit and all I could see were her eyes — those expressive eyes. They were my only source of comfort. She was there with me. Her gentle touch, her encouragement, her sense of certainty, all of it told me to trust her. And, I did.”

Screenshot of Atlantic Health System's patient story. Fighting Two Illnesses at Once: Coronavirus and Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

Honor the story

By putting a human face on a medical condition, patient stories make complex issues relatable. We can imagine ourselves or loved ones in the patient’s shoes, fostering understanding and awareness. Remember: Honor the story you’ve been given a gift with this story. Do it justice.

WG Content’s 20+ years of experience bringing patient stories to life gives us the joy of earning our title as storytellers. We’re adept at identifying memorable stories, getting to the heart of powerful messaging and interviewing patients like pros. Let us help you round out your patient stories to make an impact. Contact us today.

Before interviewing patients about their conditions, do research to gain a basic understanding of their specific medical situations. Having a foundational understanding about symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment options can help you ask informed questions and guide the conversation productively.

Begin your patient interview with broad questions about their experience, allowing them to guide the conversation and share what feels most important to them. Use a calm, empathetic tone, and allow plenty of space for listening.

Instead of relying solely on technical terms, try to understand and focus on the patient’s experience of their condition and their medical care. Supplementing information with interviews with the medical care team and with reputable medical websites like the National Institutes of Health or the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention can help.

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