3 Steps to Developing Medical Content that Tells a Story


Your learners—medical students, medical device sales trainees, and anyone who needs to understand complex medicine—love a good story. The characters, the plot, the suspense, the resolution – this is how they consume their entertainment content, and more and more, this is how they want and need to learn.

As entertainment and informational content becomes more narrative-driven, not to mention immersive and interactive, educational and medical organizations that don’t offer their learners this kind of content will fall behind. Their learners will engage less, retain less, and struggle to reach their learning objective.

Organizations that do deliver narrative experiences, however, will thrive in this new world of immersive content. They’ll be the ones whose learners can communicate confidently about what they learned and who end up learning more because they can engage with content how and when they want.

But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we dive into how and why you should incorporate narrative into your scientific communication, let’s first take a look at the history of how information was communicated: through story.

medical content that tells a story

Before the written word…

There were oral stories. Community elders would communicate important information to listeners – information about customs, how to interact with others, and how to stay alive were all passed on orally through stories and epic tales (and, interestingly enough, our ancestors knew the power of visual communication, leaving behind pictures etched in cave walls).

Oral storytelling eventually progressed to the written word allowing Homer and his contemporaries to record stories that had been passed down for generations. These tales weren’t just entertaining for an ancient audience. They contained lessons about valor, survival, and friendship.

It turns out that these stories, both oral and written, were an effective teaching tool—humans survived to the present day, long enough for modern science to show us that our brains actually learn better through story.

What does this have to do with complex medicine?

Medical and scientific content creators can take a note from Homer and his predecessors: you can teach through narrative. While we aren’t recommending that you go out and turn your next learning experience into an epic tale complete with gory battles and a Trojan horse, you can borrow some of the basic elements of a story to help your learners engage more with your content, keep their brains active throughout the learning experience, and retain more information when they’re done.

So how do you start incorporating narrative into your medical and scientific content? Here are 3 strategies you can try:

medical content that tells a story

1. Plan your content using the basic elements of storytelling.

Stories require some essential components: the characters or scenario, the problem or conflict and the resolution. Sound like your junior high English class? That’s because our brains are wired to process information more efficiently with these basic elements. (We’re not telling tales here, either – we’ve got neurobiologists backing us up on this).

To take you out of 7th grade English and put you back in the world of medical content creation, think of a story as an “ordered sequence of steps, with a clearly defined path through it.” When you create content about a disease, a complex medical topic, or a bodily system, organize your content around the path your learners need to take throughout the content to learn.

In the stories we grew up on, one event caused another, which caused another—think of your content this way. Each part of the story you’re telling should be orderly and consistent, driving to a set conclusion to help your learners better comprehend the learning objective.

Another thing to consider:what is the problem or conflict in your story? This problem will be the main point of what you’re trying to teach. Not only does your problem have to be realistic, but it also needs to develop over the course of the content you are creating to keep your audience connected with your goal.

Finally, wrap your content up with a firm resolution. This is the part of the story that leaves learners satisfied,and gives them the intellectual confidence to go act on the new information they’ve learned.

medical content that tells a story

2. Use immersive visual content to illustrate key points.

As the digital revolution continues to develop, your learners are becoming more dependent on visuals to stimulate their senses.

Humans learn better when multiple senses are working to grasp information. Using excellent visual experiences provides an avenue for your learners to use multiple senses while learning.

Pictures have almost always been used when teaching medicine. These pictures were often vague illustrations that almost fit the learning objective, instead of specific to exact learning objective. Thanks to powerful tech like the BioDigital Human, you can now create custom content tailored to the information learners need to understand.

medical content that tells a story

3. Make the content interactive.

It’s not enough to simply present content to your audience. Rather than just handing them information, make them work a little. Get your learners involved in the quest for information by creating interactive content.

What does this look like? Create a progressive story that requires the learner to unfold the next segment of the plot. Keep them engaged by having them interact with the cardiovascular system. Let them experience in 3D exactly what arteries takes blood to the feet or what a TAVR procedure looks like from all different angles. The more they can explore, discover, and learn on their own time, the better prepared they’ll be to communicate and understand complex topics on their own.

Deliver more.

Communicate your complex medical information through story—your learners will engage, learn more, and retain it for longer.

Discover how to create compelling and immersive stories. Book a demo with one of BioDigital’s strategists today.

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