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Rethinking Health Content: Why Patient Struggles can be more engaging than their Successes

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

When it comes to health content, conventional success stories have long been a popular format. We've all seen them. These stories typically feature individuals who have overcome a health challenge and achieved a positive outcome, often through determination and hard work. Of course, this approach can be inspiring to many; often an admirable example of bravery, resilience, and determination in the face of suffering; a story that needs to be told.


Brands often go to success stories because they’re naturally driven towards outcomes – a results-focus seems obvious. But how a story is told and whether it genuinely resonates with, engages and inspires its audience, well that's another matter. Stories that really show patient struggles dynamically as they unfold, can be far more engaging and inspiring for a wider range of individuals.


Here are some reasons why greater focus towards patient struggles can be more effective than traditional success stories:


1. They're relatable: One of the biggest challenges with traditional success stories is that they can be difficult for many patients to relate to. Patients may feel like they can't measure up to the person in the story or that their own struggles aren't as valid. In contrast, stories that feature patient struggles are often more relatable because they highlight the challenges that many patients face on a daily basis.


2. They're more authentic: Traditional success stories often paint a picture of a perfect, linear journey towards health and wellness. In reality, the journey to better health is rarely straightforward or easy. Stories that feature patient struggles are often more authentic because they acknowledge the ups and downs that come with working towards better health.


3. They highlight the importance of perseverance: While traditional success stories often focus on the end result, stories that feature patient struggles highlight the importance of perseverance and resilience. These stories show that setbacks and challenges are a natural part of the journey to better health, and that it's possible to overcome them with hard work and determination.


4. They promote empathy and understanding: Stories that feature patient struggles, in real-time, can help promote empathy and understanding among healthcare providers and the wider stakeholder community. By highlighting the challenges that patients face, these stories can help break down stigma and stereotypes, and promote a more compassionate and supportive approach to healthcare.


The purpose of a patient story is to engage an audience, and the audience is never just patients. Healthcare organizations have to engage a range of audiences and stakeholders, both external and internal, for many different reasons. Engagement in healthcare - from the messages coming out of doctors’ offices to pharmaceutical research or fitness and wellness marketing - really is everything. It is the missing piece of the puzzle as we strive together to build a healthier world.


While conventional and more traditional success stories can be inspiring, stories that feature patient struggles can be more relatable, more engaging and genuinely empowering for a wider range of audiences. By highlighting the challenges and realities of the journey to better health, these stories can promote empathy, understanding, and perseverance, and help patients feel less alone in their own struggles.

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