Peer Up! Improving Disease Management Among Dialysis Patients

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Peer Up! Jovan and Paul

In May 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded the Mid-Atlantic Renal Coalition (MARC) a Special Innovation Project (SIP) to determine the effectiveness of peer-to-peer (P2P) support among patients receiving in-center dialysis.

MARC recently completed the pilot test of its SIP program, Peer Up!, which was conducted at the University of Virginia (UVA) Dialysis Lynchburg over a four-month period. MARC worked with UVA staff members to pair experienced dialysis patients, or mentors, with a mentee who was new to or struggling with dialysis treatment. The pairs were required to talk at least once a week during the program, including by holding at least two in-person meetings per month. During these meetings, mentors and mentees discussed their struggles and celebrated their successes.

The mentorship program resulted in fewer missed dialysis appointments, which is crucial to keeping dialysis patients out of the hospital. “The reduction in missed appointments can be attributed to the fact that peer-to-peer programs increase accountability among patients,” Peer Up! Program Director Jennifer St. Clair Russell said. “Hearing about what something may feel like or what to expect from another patient is a powerful tool.”

“The reduction in missed appointments can be attributed to the fact that peer-to-peer programs increase accountability among patients."

Increases in mentee knowledge, sell efficacy, social support and dialysis support were also measured. However, the mentees were not the only ones who benefited. Mentors took better care of themselves because they understood that they needed to set a good example for their mentees. One mentor noted, “I’ve become more conscious of taking my medicine, controlling my fluids and my overall health. Sometimes, my mentee became my inspiration as well, as she made me accountable.”

According to St. Clair Russell, another important takeaway from the pilot project is that ultimately, peer mentoring is most successful when driven by patients. “The vision for a successful P2P program is that, in the end, it will take some burden off of staff and empower patients to play a larger role in their health journey.”

Following the success of the pilot project, MARC developed a Peer Up! toolkit to help others looking to implement the program.

To learn more about Peer Up!, email St. Clair Russell at jrussell@nw5.esrd.net