Effective timeline storytelling in the digital age

The venerable "timeline" has gotten plenty of attention in the digital age. 

Timelines have long been a standard storytelling tool, but they have often been dry or complicated.

The New York Times just upped the ante with a recent web feature ("Riding the New Silk Road," July 21, 2013) that is elegantly simple and cleverly captivating.

The Times' feature blends photos and looping videos with minimal text attached to a background map to illustrate how Hewlett-Packard ships electronics from China to European markets. As you scroll down the page, the background map moves with you while points along the map connect to the forefront images and video.

This storytelling technique would be ideal for health care — give a behind-the-curtain glimpse into what is a very complex and confusing world for patients. 

It could be used to tell the story of how a blood sample moves through the system — from blood draw to transport to the lab to the computer to the physician making a decision based on the results. Explain each point along the way and patients will better understand why it takes "so long" to get those results back.