Knowledge translation (KT) is a dynamic and iterative process . It seeks to mobilize best-practice evidence to guide decisions in healthcare and is an integral component of the evidence-based practice movement. Despite current emphasis on evidence-based practice, there remains a growing gap between ‘what is known’ and ‘what is done’ [17, 18]. KT aims to reduce the ‘evidence-practice’ gap by developing, implementing, and evaluating strategies designed to enhance awareness and promote behavior change congruent with research evidence . This behavior change can take place in many audiences including healthcare professionals, decision makers and healthcare consumers . An emerging area of KT science involves developing and evaluating effective interventions for healthcare consumers (for example, patient-mediated interventions), however the bulk of effort in the field has been dedicated to strategies that have been deemed effective in translating knowledge to healthcare professionals (for example, decision-making guides, reminders, educational materials). Concomitantly, there is a move in healthcare towards an integrative, collaborative, and patient-centered model of care that requires strategies be developed to: (1) promote knowledge uptake and dissemination, (2) be suitable for multiple audiences (for example, healthcare professionals, healthcare consumers, decision makers), and (3) account for patient preferences in care provision and patient involvement in decision-making. For instance, interventions such as narratives designed to elicit the consumers’ experience of, and preferences pertaining to, health-illness experiences, are increasingly seen as central to patient-centered care provision and collaboration .
A growing awareness of the complex nature of decision-making in healthcare for both provider and recipient and the related health-illness experience has prompted a movement toward exploring innovative approaches to transfer research and communicate with multiple audiences . Specifically, the use of narrative storytelling and other arts-based approaches (such as visual art) as communication and teaching tools are increasingly suggested and utilized as innovative approaches to meet this growing gap between practice and research. Momentum continues to grow in the area of narrative and arts-based methods, as evidenced by recent studies [12–15]. A systematic review guided by inclusive conceptualization of the visual arts, that includes the common artistic approach of narrative storytelling, will help inform this innovative area of investigation.
Extant literature on arts-based methods in healthcare is abundant, yet knowledge gaps exist. A literature review of a subset of the arts-based literature (up until 2009) was recently published in Arts & Health. The parameters of this review did not include the use of narrative storytelling approaches in healthcare  and focused largely on arts-based approaches for data generation. The findings from this review illustrated further need for clarification regarding the utility of arts-based methods. Narrative storytelling as a research modality has received increasing recognition in healthcare [12–15]; however, the use of narrative storytelling and other arts-based approaches to facilitate knowledge translation is considered novel. Understanding the ways in which narrative storytelling, as well as visual art, are used in healthcare [23–25] is necessary in order to identify venues for their xutility in the clinical setting [26–29] and to develop approaches for their use as vehicles to translate research into healthcare consumers’ decision-making , healthcare professionals’ practice , and decision-makers’ policy. This project will address these gaps through a systematic review intended to identify the current uses and effectiveness of these approaches in the healthcare arena.
Narrative storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication and is recognized in many professional disciplines as being an effective means of conveying information, understanding personal experiences, and increasing memory retention . Various meanings surround the term ‘narrative’ in healthcare research. This has occurred in part because narrative is used within healthcare in different ways, such as for diagnosis, therapy, as a research method, and as a knowledge translation tool to communicate complex health information. Most commonly, narrative inquiry is regarded as an effective means for understanding the complex individual experience of health and illness . The frequent use of narrative as a research method, in both data collection and analysis [23, 24, 31] is testimony to one aspect of its utility. However, there is untapped potential for alternative uses of narrative, such as a knowledge translation strategy to communicate complex health related information to a variety of stakeholders (patients, families, healthcare providers, decision makers). For the purpose of this study, narrative storytelling will be conceptualized as any means of providing information in a story format and the term is used interchangeably with storytelling.
Theoretically speaking, arts-based research methods can be utilized at each stage of the research process. As a result, terminology regarding arts-based methods can be varied, with the terms ‘arts-based approaches’ [32, 33], ‘arts-based methods’ [34, 35], and ‘arts-based research methods’  commonly being used interchangeably. Further, although similarity between the types of arts-based methods exists, the indications for their use in research greatly differ. In order to generate a clear conceptual definition, for the purposes of this study ‘arts-based approaches’ will be operationalized as the use of visual representation (for example, painting, drawing, photography, sculpture).
The purpose of this study is to systematically identify and synthesize current research on narrative storytelling and visual art to translate and disseminate research in healthcare. The findings from this research project will provide critical information for: (1) researchers conducting KT intervention studies; (2) nursing, medicine, and allied healthcare professionals; (3) healthcare consumers, including patients and families; and (4) decision makers and knowledge users who are charged to increase use of the latest research in healthcare settings.