Healthcare News & Insights

How patient mentors can boost patient outcomes, satisfaction

Often, the toughest part of keeping patients healthy is helping them manage their symptoms between visits — more and more hospitals are using this method to do just that. 

ThinkstockPhotos-57566563The approach uses peer mentor programs for patients going through intensive surgery or who deal with the complications of chronic diseases, like heart conditions and diabetes.

In the past, some providers have been skeptical of using peer mentors to help support patients. The fear was, since mentors are typically just volunteers or former patients who have faced similar medical issues, they might undercut physicians’ advice.

However, since the industry has begun shifting toward a more patient-centric model of care, more hospitals are seeing the benefits of peer mentors in improving satisfaction and outcomes.

How mentor programs can help

As The Wall Street Journal explains, mentor programs can have a significant effect on current patients’ ability to manage their care.

For chronic conditions, mentors generally act as role models to patients about how they should follow complicated self-management routines. Studies have shown peer mentors help diabetics maintain their blood sugar and quality of life.

Some hospitals have also linked peer mentors with patients for short-term issues, such as joint replacement surgery.

As the article notes, many physicians and surgeons often don’t have first hand experience undergoing these procedures and can only give limited answers about what patients can expect before and after the operation. Peer mentors can fill in that information gap before they go in, and can help them stay on target with their physical therapy after the procedure.

Mentors also offer support for patients who have to adjust to new routines due to their conditions, like helping patients with kidney disease adjust to life with continuous dialysis treatments.

Developing programs

Often, the emotional support mentors give patients is just as important as the practical advice they offer.

Emotional support is often critical for preventing readmissions and health deterioration since studies show a patient’s mental state often has an effect on their rate of recovery and health management.

As a result of their peer mentor programs, hospitals are seeing patient satisfaction increase in addition to the improved outcomes. Many patients and their families have said that peer mentors are crucial team members in their ongoing effort to manage their own health.

However, if your hospital plans to implement or expand your use of peer mentors, it’s important to consider how best to develop programs and educate potential mentors. It’s crucial that mentors are trained properly to avoid things like giving medical advice that contradicts doctors’ orders.

The Peers for Progress program, a nonprofit group associated with The American Academy of Family Physicians Foundations, offers resource hospital leaders can use to effectively develop and implement mentorship programs.

Peers for Progress recently released a report on how to create programs and another guide on how to keep those programs cost-effective.

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