What Does Story Have to Do With Healthcare

When I wrote the article on the confusion between Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and Do Not Treat (DNT) that was eventually published on KevinMD, I had no idea this problem would resonate with so many physicians. Dr. Edwin Leap, an emergency room physician, who also found himself struggling with how to deal with this distinction with his patients. Dr. Leap contacted me that he had man of the same concerns with his emergency room patients. What’s more, Dr. Leap has a long history of writing engaging, thoughtful, well-written articles on life in the emergency room, but most recently has talked about his experience on his Substack page, Life and Limb.

Since I was already doing regular podcasts about safe pregnancy with Neil Haley for Rural Doc Alan, interviewing physicians and healthcare workers about the changes we face as medical decisions was a Eureka moment for me.

The public clearly shows a lot of disdain for physicians in the media. Talking with other physicians and healthcare workers seemed like a great way to try to undo some of the media prejudices against physicians. Plus it provides an arena for physicians to talk about their concerns with other physicians.

Story has much to do with how people interact with others. Roger Schank in Tell Me A Story taught us a lot about how we rely upon story to remember our past and apply what we learned to new situations. We often “think” in story format.

You may be wondering what story has to do with healthcare. When most people had a primary care doctor, the doctor knew their “story.” Chances are, the doctor knew their parents and possibly even their grandparents. Primary care doctors didn’t have to laboriously review your family history every time you went to the clinic because your doctor knew it without having to read an electronic medical record.

Today, the doctor you see in a clinic is often a person you’ve never met before, and even if you know this doctor, he or she is likely prevented from listienting very long to the story of why you are visiting the clinic. This is likely because corporate medicine has ordered physicians to spend no more than 15 minutes with patients. As a result, too many doctors don’t take the time to listen to your story, your concerns, or thoroughly answer your questions.

The stories you will find here may help fillout some of the story space between you and your own doctor.