At BIF, we believe that great stories can change the world. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Business Innovation Factory is exploring how storytelling and narrative methods can improve healthcare and contribute toward building a Culture of Health.

Design Challenge

How might we harness and codify the power of story in healthcare education and practice to improve the value our healthcare system provides, and work toward a vibrant Culture of Health?

In this era of high-tech medicine and instantaneously-available information, we believe that stronger use of narrative methods in healthcare — such as expressive writing, narrative medicine, and theatre/medical arts — have the potential to build bridges between patients and practitioners, data and knowledge, and “hearing” and “understanding.” Yet, current efforts to incorporate narrative methods into healthcare are disparate and fragmented. We see an opportunity to bring together a wide range of thought leaders and subject matter experts to explore the use of narrative in supporting care, healing and overall wellness — for both patients and practitioners — and codify best practices, methods, and tools to encourage wider implementation.


On February 5th and 6th, 2015, 30 thought leaders on the topic of narrative methods in healthcare, from the US and abroad, joined us for a Participatory Design Workshop to share best practices, define the value proposition of narrative methods, and co-create the content and format for a healthcare narrative “playbook.”  This playbook will serve as a national resource for both patients and practitioners to learn, champion, and implement.

Attendees included a range of practitioners and supporters:

  • Educators and researchers in the field of narrative medicine
  • Authors focused on the power of expressive writing
  • Physicians and other clinicians who have both a patient perspective themselves, and and/or a clinician voice in the practice of oral, written and/or performing arts as a tool for healing
  • Artists focused on using the craft (theatre, art, dance, poetry etc.) as a means of healing
  • Social patients with a powerful online voice
  • Policy makers
  • Entrepreneurs in health
Impact Statement

Through this collaborative effort from BIF, RWJF, and the best minds in this field, we believe we have developed a unified voice about the power that narrative can bring to the care and healing process. We see the creation of the narrative playbook as a first step in a larger initiative to stimulate discussion and to support storytelling as a way to promote empathy, empowerment, and connection.