middle age woman on phone
Photo Credit: "feb2-heather", © 2010 David365, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

“When Jodie Ofosuhene learned she had breast cancer at age 29 in 2016, she got more than standard medical care,” Aaron E. Carroll and Austin Frakt write over at The New York Times. “She was connected with Noel Peters, a former patient who serves as a mentor to new ones. ‘Noel helped me tremendously,’ Ms. Ofosuhene said in an interview. ‘Every time I had a question about my response to treatment — whether it was normal — she had answers from her own experience.’ In an ideal world, when we are faced with a new health problem, a clinician is available to sit down and address all our questions and anxieties about the condition and its treatment. This ideal is rarely met in the United States health system. More typically, we’re rushed through doctor visits that fly by too quickly for us to gather our thoughts. Other patients can help. They have (or have had) your condition, as well as your anxieties and questions, and they’ve found a path through. … ‘There’s a lot about the patient experience that doctors and nurses cannot convey because they haven’t gone through it,’ Ms. Peters said. ‘You can get a much better sense of what it means to be a patient from another patient.’  We know this from experience. Both of us have health conditions that were once new to us. Aaron wrote about his ulcerative colitis and mental health. Austin has written about his insomnia, minor heart condition and sleep apnea. At first, we sought lots of advice, and not just from doctors. In turn, once we gained experience, we shared what worked and didn’t. Sharing health stories and learning from one another in an unpaid way (like in-person mentorship, online chats or phone calls) is known as peer health advice or peer-to-peer health care. ‘After that diagnosis, you get home and you’re alone,’ said Susannah Fox, an advocate and scholar of peer-to-peer health care and a former chief technology officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ‘But you don’t have to be alone.’ ” Aaron E. Carroll and Austin Frakt, “Sometimes Patients Simply Need Other Patients,” The New York Times.

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...