Using patient stories to gain understanding and initiate org change

3 minute read

Using patient stories to gain understanding and initiate org change

< 1 minute read

UCSF’s care transitions team uses patient stories to help the medical team connect emotionally with their program and patients

The Issue

To initiate organizational change and develop a new HF program, we needed to enlist the support of a multidisciplinary team. Some of the team members are not regularly at the bedside, so the importance of sharing the patient stories and experience was particularly valuable to gain support and perspective.


University of California Medical Center is a teaching hospital in San Francisco, CA. It has 660 beds and serves a diverse population with varying educational levels and languages spoken (including Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish). It is also an advanced heart failure and transplant hospital with patients traveling from across California for their health care. Their transitions program began in 2008 and is influenced by IHI’s Transforming Care at the Bedside.

What We Tried

On Fridays, we would send out an email update to the multidisciplinary team on our progress that would always include a patient’s story and the lessons learned. The stories revealed the barriers and challenges that our patients are faced with and the interventions we attempted to address the patient’s issues. Recipients of the email update included home care nurses, dieticians, chaplains, case managers, and social workers as well as others further removed from the bedside, including senior leadership, research analysts, QI nurses, and others.


The stories really helped the team connect emotionally with patients and the program. It helped them understand what patients were going through and how we were helping them. The lessons learned section was very important because it showed how much value we were getting from working with patients. We are seven years into the program now and the original team we formed is still very much engaged in the program and willing to help.

The patient stories also proved powerful for helping to initiate change. Focusing in on patients’ stories ignited discussion and brought about new awareness and led to the implementation of new policies due to the power of patients’ own words and experiences.


We made sure to abide by HIPPA standards to protect patients’ privacy, including that all the stories were made anonymous to protect their privacy.

Patient stories are different from case studies. Case studies are more clinical and focus on the process. We focused more on the patient and family perspective to gain a greater understanding of how our program could help them.

Organizational Background

Organization Name: UCSF Parnassus

Location: 500 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA, United States

Organization Type: Hospital