Do Personal Stories Make Patient Decision Aids More Effective? An Update from the International Patient Decision Aids Standards

Victoria A. Shaffer, Suzanne Brodney, Teresa Gavaruzzi, Yaara Zisman Ilani, Sarah Munro, Sian Smith, Elizabeth Thomas, Katherine D. Valentine, Hilary L. Bekker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: This article evaluates the evidence for the inclusion of patient narratives in patient decision aids (PtDAs). We define patient narratives as stories, testimonials, or anecdotes that provide illustrative examples of the experiences of others that are relevant to the decision at hand. Method: To evaluate the evidence for the effectiveness of narratives in PtDAs, we conducted a narrative scoping review of the literature from January 2013 through June 2019 to identify relevant literature published since the last International Patient Decision Aid Standards (IPDAS) update in 2013. We considered research articles that examined the impact of narratives on relevant outcomes or described relevant theoretical mechanisms. Results: The majority of the empirical work on narratives did not measure concepts that are typically found in the PtDA literature (e.g., decisional conflict). Yet, a few themes emerged from our review that can be applied to the PtDA context, including the impact of narratives on relevant outcomes (knowledge, behavior change, and psychological constructs), as well as several theoretical mechanisms about how and why narratives work that can be applied to the PtDA context. Conclusion: Based on this evidence update, we suggest that there may be situations when narratives could enhance the effectiveness of PtDAs. The recent theoretical work on narratives has underscored the fact that narratives are a multifaceted construct and should no longer be considered a binary option (include narratives or not). However, the bottom line is that the evidence does not support a recommendation for narratives to be a necessary component of PtDAs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMedical Decision Making
Early online date22 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 May 2021


  • anecdotes
  • narratives
  • patient decision aids
  • patient stories
  • testimonials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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