Boston hospital's story-recording kiosk helps patients cope with illness

A Boston hospital aims to use a story-recording booth to help critically ill patients gain a perspective on their own health struggles and also educate other patients and their families about the condition, according to Boston Public Radio.

Massachusetts General Hospital's Paul S. Russell Museum plans to install an interactive story-recording booth, where patients can record their own stories or access stories of other patients with similar conditions. The SharingClinic is the brainchild of Anne C. Brewster, M.D., a Massachusetts General internist who became frustrated with the way that the modern healthcare system so rarely seems to truly listen to patients. Brewster is also the founder of Health Story Collaborative, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping patients and caregivers share their stories for therapeutic value.

The booth allows patients to use a touch screen to "select stories by diagnosis, by theme or by perspective" and share their own comments. 

Some hospitals like New York's Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) are already integrating patient stories as a way of helping new patients choose a physician who is right for their needs. HSS produced an online forum called Back in the Game that features more than 400 patient stories so that consumers can make informed choices about their care. 

Research has shown that patients who are engaged and involved in a productive dialogue with their healthcare providers are "more likely to pursue preventive care, engage in healthy behaviors and follow their providers' advice."

Launching the Mass General hospital project, said Brewster, was a struggle, however. Fear of litigation, patient confidentiality and other legal issues makes many hospital administrators reluctant to embrace these types of projects.

But, she said, "facing illness can be scary and isolating, and hospitals can be alienating. Our goals are to empower and connect individuals facing health challenges--to remind people that they are not alone--and to improve the culture of the hospital through storytelling."

To learn more:
- read the WBUR article
- visit Health Story Collaborative's site