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From the Trenches

5 Compelling Ways to Tell Patient Stories

Yvonne Lyons | February 24, 2020

When it comes to talking about health care, patients themselves are often the most effective communicators. Increasingly, patient stories serve as a crucial tool for physicians as they work to recruit new patients. Consider: Some 72% of patients use online reviews and testimonials as their first step in finding a new doctor.

But with so many healthcare organizations looking to capitalize on patient testimonials, how do you make sure your patient stories stand out from the crowd?

We’ve gathered 5 creative and compelling approaches to patient stories that will help you think outside the box to create online marketing strategies that grab attention and inspire confidence.

Mixed Media Patient Stories: Cleveland Clinic

There are infinite ways to tell a good story, so why pick just one medium to convey it? Cleveland Clinic uses multiple kinds of content to capitalize on a single patient’s experience.

Erin’s story includes a shareable video with commentary from her family and treatment team, as well as a long-form explanation of the care she received and the community she built during her treatment.

The written explanation of Erin’s treatment ends on a strong CTA that drives readers directly to the institutes within Cleveland Clinic that provided her care.

Further reading: How to Make Serious Topics Interesting with Video Storytelling

Social Media Story-Telling: Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group

Social media doesn’t have to be simply a distribution engine for your best patient stories. Rather, savvy healthcare providers can use their engaged digital communities to frontload important emotional arcs within the patient stories they are sharing.

Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group did exactly this in sharing a video that captured the story of a patient who received an innovative cardiac surgical procedure to improve his quality of life.

Rather than focusing on the scientific details of the new procedure, the team opted to offer emotional depth to Bob’s story, centering social media posts and the video testimonial on Bob’s proposal to his girlfriend (at age 84)! 

Further reading: How to use social media for emotional storytelling

Patient Stories Outside of the Hospital: New York Presbyterian

New York Presbyterian (NYP) hospital broke the mold on patient testimonials by sharing a short but powerful story about the care and compassion their doctors demonstrate — even outside of the hospital.

In the one-minute patient story about Michael, below, he describes having a heart attack on the New York subway, and how a NYP doctor performed compressions for over 20 minutes with the help of a bystander.

Michael’s story, which has been viewed more than 850,000 times, ends with “NYPH: Amazing things are happening here.” A strong call to action follows, prompting viewers to learn more and hear more stories at a dedicated landing page: nyp.org/amazingthings.

Further reading: Getting More Mileage from Your Patient Testimonials

Testimonial Ads: National Jewish Health

Patient stories don’t have to be relegated to long-form video or written content—sometimes a catchy framing and powerful visual approach can tell a story in just a few words, and prove to be a powerful advertising tool.

This inspiring campaign from National Jewish Health engenders hope through short copy and powerful imagery. Their “Never Say Never” campaign featured important stories that pack a punch in just a few sentences, turning testimonial ads into a storytelling experience.

Further reading: Master the Art of Storytelling in Your Ads

Community-Sourced Patient Stories: Sunovion Pharmaceuticals

Sunovion Pharmaceuticals has been building an award-winning campaign since 2016 that breaks the mold of how patient stories are typically sourced, structured, and shared.

The Sunovian Pharmaceuticals team created a #MyEpilepsyHero social media campaign that ran on a Facebook group page, and paid media posts supported efforts on both the Sunovion Facebook and Twitter pages. Individuals posted their own heroes through pictures, videos and memes. It resulted in more than 8,300 hashtag mentions and more than 10 million impressions.

Thanks to the overwhelming response, Sunovian Pharmaceuticals now has thousands of micro stories to combine and share as longer-form stories, and an engaged digital community that continues to share their stories in many different forms.

Further reading: Explore more award-winning healthcare campaigns


Patient stories should be the backbone of your healthcare marketing efforts. A compelling patient story will always be a more effective recruiting tool than images of your pristine facilities, or dry outcome statistics.

These creative approaches to patient testimonials use thoughtful storytelling to pack an emotional punch that offers hope to potential patients.

If you’re not sure about the right formula for sharing your inspiring patient stories, we’ve got your back. Get in touch now to create your next shareable and compelling patient story.

Related Resources

About Yvonne Lyons:

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of creative services, overseeing content and design for all of our clients. She ensures that all creative produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, and communications.