This post has been adapted from one that originally featured on the blog of Aurora, VIVA! Communication’s Global Health PR partner in the UK.

Reporting the facts and figures of new data is all very well, but what does it really mean?
The perspective of the person actually affected by the news can convey the true meaning of the story in a way that no statistic or press release can.

The question is what these numbers – the p-values and confidence intervals – actually mean for a patient. Does it mean that they will be able to see their children grow up? Or does it mean that they can go for a walk without oxygen? Or get dressed by themselves?

It is only the central person to this story, the patient, who can tell us what the statistics actually mean to them.

Not that long ago, you would only be able to hear these patient stories via traditional media. However, these days, just type a few words into a search engine and this opens up a whole new world of patient stories.

Personal blogs, Facebook and Twitter are new opportunities for people to share their experiences of living with a particular condition – but there is still a place for people’s stories to be communicated via traditional news media.

For most patients, talking to journalists is probably something they have never done before and can be a daunting prospect. They may need help to understand industry regulations and how even telling their own stories in a public space can be affected by these.

Also, as more communication channels open up, applying the spirit of the regulations becomes even more challenging.

However, our changing world should not restrict the involvement of patients, because after all, it’s not just a story, it’s someone’s life.