Attaching Veterans’ Life Stories to Medical Charts Helps Doctors Connect

A program called My Life, My Story puts a narrative behind a patients’ diagnosis.

Interesting article this morning over at Kaiser Health News about a VA program in which writers interview patients, and then produce a profile that reads more like a newspaper article than a medical chart. Those profiles, however, when attached to medical charts, help to give doctors the sort of insight that medical measurement can’t provide

Thor Ringler has managed the My Life, My Story project at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wis., since 2013. He tells KHN that while providers can find a lot of data on an electronic medical chart they can’t capture things like a person’s career, passions, and values.

“If you were to try to get a sense of someone’s life from that record, it might take you days,” Ringler tells KHN. More than 2,000 patients have shared their life stories with writers, like Ringler, hired to interview them.

KHN reports that “under Ringler’s guidance, the project has developed a set of training materials to allow other VA hospitals to launch storytelling programs.” Approximately 40 VA hospitals in the nation have expressed interest in launching the My Life, My Story Program.