Using digital stories to fight overuse and underuse

The first step toward Right Care is recognizing the twin problems of systemic overuse and underuse. That’s why initiatives such as Taking Action on Overuse and Right Care Vignettes challenge clinicians to share stories and have conversations with each other about the potential harm of unnecessary care. 

Dr. Daniel Nicklas, a pediatrician and assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, has taken reflection and storytelling about right care to a new level by creating a digital storytelling curriculum for medical students and pediatric residents at UCSM. Nicklas and his team received a Lown Institute Young Innovator Grant to develop the program, and now the results of the first digital stories program have been published in Academic Pediatrics.

Why digital stories?

Digital stories are short videos that tell a story using personal narrative, images, and music. Reflecting on personal experiences and telling stories are valuable on their own, but adding a more creative element got participants to connect to the emotions they felt about the story. Many participants also presented these videos publicly for broader audiences in the hospital, which required them to make the stories as clear and engaging as possible. 

Nicklas and his team held a focus group for participants after the program to find how creating digital stories affected their views on right care. They found that creating digital stories “made participants think more carefully and deliberately than writing a story alone.” When students and residents expressed their emotions around the potential harm of overuse and underuse, “they became more thoughtful, patient-centered, and intentional in their care of patients.”

Further, “giving their reflections a voice” through digital stories empowered participants to discuss Right Care concepts with their teachers and attendings in subsequent interactions. This is especially important for cultural change, because trainees often see receive unnecessary care but feel that they can’t speak up about it to their superiors. 

A diagram of the Right Care digital storytelling curriculum at the University of Colorado Department of Pediatrics.


Next steps

With these promising results, Nicklas and his team plan to create more opportunities to for digital storytelling, both for the original participants and for other students and residents. They will also continue to gather data about results of the program and “seek out additional forums in which to share the digital stories with medical and lay communities.”   


Check out the links below to see some of the digital stories created by program participants: