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Real Patient Stories Help Ground Tomorrow’s Doctors

Stanford, CA—Many doctors-to-be spend the first several years of medical school entrenched in rigorous academic activity, but miles away from any living, breathing patients. They spend countless hours in classrooms and lecture halls, cramming their brains chock-full of facts and figures that many see as the foundation to becoming a good doctor. Unfortunately, this experience stands in sharp contrast to two things: what they imagined the practice of medicine was and what they will actually be doing “in the real world” as practicing physicians.

Some of the best lecturers address this issue themselves. They bring patients right into the classroom to help students get a more complete understanding of both a disease and the practice of medicine. By all accounts, when patients are present to share their stories and insights with classes, the distractions that plague most lecture halls fade away. Hearing both the medical and emotional aspects of disease directly from sufferers’ mouths engage students on a deeper and more profound level. Unfortunately, it’s neither practical nor feasible to bring patients to every class.

A recent study in Academic Medicine presented a potential solution out of Stanford that could bring deeper patient insights and stories into the classroom in a more scalable way. The project created several dozen Springboard videos that pull together real-world patient stories to help students ground scientific topics (from microbiology to immunology) into a patient-centric context. The results from the study are promising. Most of the students found significant value in the approach, and even reported that the approach helped them increase how much material they were able to retention.

Why This Matters

This story resonates with two distinct trends from our 2017 Trends reports. From the consumer perspective, Extreme Fatigue points to the fact that constant exposure to sensationalism has led us to tune out much of the noise around us. Today, what breaks through are small, personal and relatable stories of real people. In this case, medical students are inundated with heavy scientific information, so here, too, these personal and relatable stories tend to grab and hold more of the students’ attention.

This study also highlights another trend from the healthcare space: Earlier Involvement. All across the industry, patients are being pulled into the picture earlier and earlier. We see that here too: traditionally it took medical students years to get real hands-on experience with patients, but this study pulls them into the spotlight from the start.