Patient Mentors – A Novel Approach to Patient Engagement

My friend and colleague Dr. Kevin Leonard has, for the past few years, been passionately advocating greater patient involvement in their care along with greater electronic access to their personal health information.   While Kevin’s Patient Destiny initiative seemingly focuses on what he calls “One Patient, One Record”, I think that the essence of Patient Destiny has to do with transforming our healthcare system through greater patient engagement in all aspects of healthcare delivery, from policy through to medical practice.

Patient engagement can take many forms.  This morning, I read about what seems to a novel approach to patient engagement.  The Health Mentors Program at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, provides an opportunity for approximately 550 first-year students from a variety of healthcare programs to gain a better understanding of the daily challenges of living with a chronic condition from adult volunteers.   Students enrolled in the program meet with the patient mentors four times per year and hear first hand from these mentors about their experiences navigating the health system.

Dr. Laurie Collins, faculty director for the Health Mentors Program, notes that the volunteers are eager to get involved:

“People with chronic illness don’t really get the care they’d like – in many cases they’re frustrated and dissatisfied … They really feel they’re contributing to the development of a better health care system.”

Mike

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