Eliciting patient autobiographies in clinical practice: A scoping review

Health care professionals can access a wide range of medical data through a patient's electronic medical record, but there is nowhere to learn about a patient as a person, e.g., their personality, hobbies, career, hopes, or what matters to them both in general and regarding their health. Evidence shows that patients highly value being treated as persons, and sharing personal information about themselves that extends beyond their disease with the health care team. Knowing a patient as a person by taking into account the historical, psycho-social and biographical dynamics of patients' lives can contribute to person-centered care, improve outcomes, shorten the distance between patients and their health care team, and improve the therapeutic relationship. One way these outcomes could be achieved is through biographical approaches. Patient biographies, also called narratives or life stories, seem to be a promising means to provide valuable information about patients as persons and shape decision-making not only in clinical practice but also in policy-making. However, research on the use of patient biographies in clinical practice is limited and biographical approaches remain poorly understood. In particular, both normative and empirical questions remain unanswered. Should auto-biographical approaches introduced in clinical practice? What are their positive and negative effects and what mechanisms do seem to explain them? The aim of this study is to map the empirical and non-empirical literature on the use of biographical approaches in clinical practice to summarize both normative and empirical issues. In particular, this study seeks to answer five main types of review questions: descriptive, normative, relational, causal and theoretical. For example, we aim at describing the main features of previously employed biographical approaches in clinical practice, list moral arguments in favor and against, and document the impacts that eliciting patient biographies may have on patients, families, and/or the care team.



Marta Fadda

Pietro Majno

Alessandra Cristaudi

Federica Merlo


Samia Hurst

Martha Montello