Peer-to-peer patient support groups have been shown to improve patient health literacy and increase patient empowerment in health decision-making, according to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care.
Low medication adherence and treatment compliance are widespread and initiatives to form patient support groups to address these issues are an effective method of tackling this problem.
Although the exact mechanism of peer-to-peer support has not been extensively studied, the general understanding is that it works by means of social influence, encouraging positive long-term changes in behaviour.
In order to be effective, patient groups need an established structure and a robust training and support system.
Patient support groups allow people to form relationships with others experiencing similar health problems and promote better relationships with their own care providers, the researchers say. These outcomes would promote the development of financially more sustainable healthcare systems.
In spite of these benefits, there is a gap in understanding about the true effectiveness of patient support groups in improving treatment adherence. Further work, including empirical pilot studies with patient reported outcomes, is needed to support implementation.
“Social support systems are more likely to produce the social networks that can encourage an individual to adhere to treatment and make positive lifestyle changes, and provide additional resources for services for patients …. Health systems could see a reduction in readmission rates, lower healthcare costs across the spectrum, and adherence to treatments that will improve health. The cost of the programmes is a minimal cost to the healthcare system and could enhance the ability of patients to truly be empowered to adhere to the treatments they prescribed.”