The NKF Peers Program is managed by two master’s level social workers (including myself). We interview people interested in speaking with a peer supporter and match them appropriately. We also train and support people who are interested in being peer supporters.
To date we’ve matched over 750 pairs through our program.
Robust Peer Supporter Training
All of our peer supporters complete a comprehensive training program that includes interactive exercises and role playing via webinar. The training emphasizes how to provide support over the phone. Phone conversations, as opposed to talking with someone face-to-face, require special care to actively listen and express empathy.
We support peer supporters in building trusting relationships and keeping their peers engaged through shared goal setting.
Throughout the training we speak a lot about loss and grief, cultural diversity, differing values and beliefs, and how that will play into the peer mentoring relationship. Ultimately, we help the peer supporters develop skills that help their peers (i.e., patients seeking support) get the most out of the program and transition from the program once they no longer need the support.
At the end, peer supporters complete an exercise to ensure they’ve mastered the skills and techniques covered throughout the training.
Peer supporters sign a role and responsibility commitment, reiterating that they are not to provide medical advice through their peer mentoring relationships, as well as a confidentiality statement to ensure privacy.
To date, we’ve trained over 175 peer supporters. We ask peer supporters to evaluate our training: 100% feel very prepared to provide support after successful completion.
Folks who have come out on the other side are really invested in giving back. So, we hope to continue to build on this program for that reason alone!
Once the peer supporters are trained, we’re ready to match them with folks who are interested in receiving support. As a national program, peer supporters and peers come from all over the U.S.
Many patients seeking support feel isolated and alone. They may not know anyone else with kidney disease, so just connecting with someone who has “been there” and can understand the path they’re on provides validation and, more importantly, hope.
There are a number of factors that are important to people with kidney disease when matching with a peer supporter. One of the biggest is treatment modality, such as in-center dialysis, home dialysis, or transplant. The age of the peer supporter matters, too. We also take into consideration people’s diagnosis, or cause of kidney disease, like in the case of polycystic kidney disease. Some folks care about gender and we accommodate those preferences, too.
Transitioning to PeerStrong
Back in 2011 when we launched NKF Peers, I had a fancy Excel file to keep track of all these matches and matching preferences.
But as you can imagine, it quickly got out of hand!
Soon I had multiple Excel files. And learning all the features that I could on Excel did not help me to do this any better!
That is when InquisitHealth saved us.
InquisitHealth has developed an incredible platform that removed the operational overhead in a big way.
The administrative burden was a challenge and impeded the ability of our program to be sustainable. InquisitHealth’s platform allowed us to scale our program and to leverage our skills as social workers much more effectively.
NKF Peers Program: Satisfaction + Outcomes!
On average, we’re seeing that people are talking on 6 separate occasions for about 30 minutes each time.
We send out a satisfaction survey to all of our peers after they complete the program. 97% who speak with a peer supporter would recommend our program to someone in a similar situation.
We also started tracking healthy lifestyle changes in this same survey. Forty percent of peers said they had made a positive change in behavior after talking with a peer supporter. The nature of that change varies, but some of the main ones are diet changes, preparing better for an upcoming doctor’s appointment, or having further conversations about treatment modality.
In addition, we use a validated tool called the Patient Activation Measure (PAM) developed by Insignia Health. This is a 13-question survey that assesses an individual’s knowledge, skills, and confidence for self-management. The results are broken into four levels. The highest, the 4th level, is an activated individual who feels confident about their role in their care; they’re their own best advocate. Many of our peer supporters are at level 4. Many of the people who are contacting us for support start at level 2 or 3. Through the program, we’ve been able to demonstrate a significant increase in the PAM score. Per Insignia Health, each point increase translates into a 2% decrease in hospitalizations and a 2% increase in medication adherence.
We’re very proud of this!
When we initially launched the NKF Peers program years ago, we hoped to be able to grow it. Now with the PeerStrong platform and app, we are able to.
We’ve already expanded our program to include living donors and people considering kidney donation. Now we’re looking at other people we would like to support, such as parents of children with kidney disease, as well as other family members and caregivers.
This has been a very positive experience for us and we’re excited to continue growing the program and our partnership with InquisitHealth!