For as long as the concept of community has been around, so have the benefits of banding together to cope and grow through certain life-altering experiences. Today, the community is still here, but it has adapted to the technology of the modern world.
What was once a group people gathering and meeting, has now evolved into online connections. Using online video sessions, peer support no longer has to come from somebody sitting next to you, but it can be found viewing your home computer. Telemedicine has made it possible for peer-to-peer support to reach far beyond locality and has made support a worldwide option.
When considering peer-to-peer support, healthcare is a dominant focus, particularly for people with chronic diseases. Studies have confirmed the many benefits of meeting others that have or are experiencing similar issues and sharing their concerns. As telemedicine becomes an integral part of healthcare, its value as a method of communicating with patients increases significantly when used to facilitate peer-to-peer support.
Many healthcare providers initiate peer-to-peer support programs for their patients. Now this support can be facilitated by telemedicine, and the patient doesn’t have to leave the privacy of their home. Allowing for online video sessions, a patient opens their home to counsel. They can connect with someone that has had a similar health-related experience and discuss their expectations and concerns, while finding comfort in knowing that they are not alone. Using telemedicine helps reduce the loneliness and depression associated with long-term or debilitating illnesses, and improves the ability to cope.
Advantages of telemedicine patient programs
- Connecting peers through telemedicine allows for participation for patients whose illness makes it difficult to be mobile, e.g. using portable oxygen, wheelchair, or a service dog, and/or transportation may be unavailable, costly, or the trip is too lengthy.
- Many participants — patients and physicians — have busy schedules. Telemedicine alleviates conflicting responsibilities and allows them to participate more often by allowing for sessions to be conducted from wherever there is an internet connection.
- Families and caregivers of patients in a peer-to-peer support programs are more likely to sit in on the online video sessions. Their unique perspective is valuable to patients, physicians, and other participants.
- Patients participating in a peer support program may have spent a lot of time searching for information about their disease that may not have provided an consolation. Meeting with a patient advocate, opens up a large source of information about relevant medical information, personal experiences, and support.
- Each patient in the peer support program watches over the others’ health, drawing attention to symptoms or behaviors of concern, and offering support between scheduled doctor appointments.
- Telemedicine peer programs can improve a patient’s quality of life and ease their social isolation.