People’s stories about health and healthcare capture what matters from their perspectives.
Health professionals are skilled and highly knowledgeable in their areas of practice and specialisation.
But health consumers are the only people who deal with all of the health services and experts that respond to their situations. As a result consumers’ stories of experience can provide crucial information about things like quality, safety, coordination and continuity of care; and about the longer-term outcomes of treatments and procedures.
People’s stories also provide information about the personal, community and social factors that shape health outcomes. Stories can highlight the role of policies, services and experiences that are outside the health system but powerfully affect health outcomes.
Stories also allow people to identify what they felt worked, and what didn’t work, in their health and care. Importantly, stories also let people share what they think could improve their health and health care they receive.
Stories “contain almost everything that is required for a deep appreciative understanding of the strengths and weaknesses” of a service, system or situation.
This is an essential evidence base for any decision that affects consumer health.
Conway et al (2006) Partnering with patients and families to design a patient- and family-centered health care system: a roadmap for the future. A work in progress (IFFCC and IHI)
 Dwamena F, M Holmes-Rovner, C M Gaulden S Jorgenson S, G Sadigh, A Sikorskii, S Lewin S, RC Smith, J Coffey, A Olomu (2012) Training healthcare providers to be more 'patient-centred' in clinical consultations (Cochrane Collaboration, Cochrane Consumers and Communications Review Group: La Trobe University, Melbourne); Murphy, Margaret (2012) ‘The patient experience as a catalyst for change’, Conference Proceedings, Patients for Patient Safety, Safety Forum IPP, Belfast October 3 2012 (World Health Organisation Patient Safety Alliance: WHO)
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 Bate, Paul and Glenn Robert (2006) Experience-based design: from redesigning the system around the patient to co-designing services with the patient (Quality and Safety in Health Care 15(307-310), p309