Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care
Transforming health care through partnerships

Delivery Models and Organizational Structures

Creating a Design and Implementation Team is an essential first step in developing a Peer Program. To ensure success, patients and families co-lead the team that would include physicians, nurses, social workers, and non-clinical department members, such as marketing, public relations, and volunteer services. The first order of business for this team is to determine the model of peer support that will best meet the interest, needs, and desires of patients and families, and develop the administrative infrastructure to support the model. Read about other Success Factors.

Delivery Models

One-to-One Peer Support matches each interested patient or family with a trained peer, based on the patient or family's primary reason for seeking support. This model relies on the capacity to recruit, train, and support a diverse cadre of peers who can be matched, one-to-one, with those seeking support. This pairing can be based on matching—as closely as possible—the experiences of the pair. Factors that may be considered in the matching, in addition to diagnosis or condition, may be type of treatment, gender, age, geography, or any other relevant demographic or other factors. These trained peers are usually volunteers rather than paid staff, and may be called one or more of the following: Peer Mentor, Peer Visitor, Peer Guide, Peer Navigator, or Buddy.

Support Groups are often diagnosis specific. Support groups offer education and support to patients and families who are, or could benefit from, self-managing a diagnosis, treatment, or ongoing health care challenge, or simply need the support of similarly situated people. Support groups may be community-based or sponsored by a hospital, unit, or clinic. Often the leader or co-leader is a patient or family member. Guest speakers who can share their expertise, such as a physician, psychologist, nurse, social worker, or patient or family member of a patient with relevant personal experiences, may be invited speak or to participate in a panel discussion on a topic of interest to the group. Some support groups emphasize emotional support and shared experience, offering a hybrid model of education and support.

One-to-One Peer to Peer Support and Support Groups are sometimes offered together. Participants in such a support group may also be paired with a trained peer who is further along in their common health care or life experience.

With the influence of social media and the internet, access to virtual peer support is a growing phenomenon. For example, see Patti Robinson Kaufmann First Connection Program and PatientsLikeMe.

Organizational/Administrative Structures

Organizations—such as a hospital, or clinic, or department—may develop, support, and manage internal peer programs as a hospital-wide initiative, or as a unit/department or clinic-based program. Successful programs align their peer mentor programs with the mission and goals of the organization and its strategic initiatives.

Hospitals or clinics may sponsor, partner, or contract with community-based peer programs or local affiliates of national organizations to provide peer support to patients and families. The following are examples of programs with which hospitals and clinics could partner:

The Exemplar Profiles describe in detail the Organizational/Administrative structure each entity employed to build and sustain its program.