NKF Peers: Successful Model of Patient Engagement

Written by Kelli Collins, MSW, Vice President, Patient Engagement, National Kidney Foundation 

The National Kidney Foundation was invited to Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care (IPFCC) 8th Annual International Conference to present on its signature Peer Mentoring program. We were honored to have our session, “Successful National Telephonic Peer Mentor Program: Review of National Kidney Foundation’s Peer Program,” chosen as the Celeste Castillo Lee Leadership Lecture at the conference in Baltimore in June.

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IPFCC aims to advance the understanding and practice of patient and family centered care and seeks to integrate these concepts into all aspects of healthcare in partnership with patients, families and healthcare professionals.  Celeste Castillo Lee was the chair of NKF’s Patient and Family Council for many years and also worked closely with IPFCC.   As a pioneer in demanding patient centered care and patient engagement, Celeste inspired much-needed change through her steadfast commitment and tireless efforts to advance the level of patient engagement.

Our session illustrated how our intuitive platform successfully supports patients by matching them with mentors who are inspiring their mentees to live well on dialysis and/or work towards ending their wait for a transplant.  My co-presenters were Risa Simon, NKF Peer Mentor and Advocate and founder of the TransplantFirst Academy, and Ashwin Patel, MD, PhD and Chief Medical Officer of InquisitHealth, our technology partner.  InquisitHealth technology allows us to match and connect pairs via a toll-free phone system as well as to track participation.  NKF’s Peers program has been successfully supporting patients since 2011 and continues to grow.  To date, NKF Peers has matched over 700 people seeking support with a peer mentor.

“The PeerStrong technology platform has the privilege of serving the NKF Peers Program – helping the program expand and scale, while producing tremendous improvements in the PAM, or Patient Activation Measure, scores for patients with chronic kidney disease,” shared Dr. Patel. “We are working together to connect the dots between peer support and measurable improvements in clinical outcomes.”

NKF Peers mentor, Risa Simon shared her experience as a mentee and mentor. “Most patients don’t realize that there is a world of support outside the walls of their doctor’s exam room. After informally discovering this hidden gem back in 2008, I looked for ways to pay it forward. When I learned of NKF’s Peers program I applied without hesitation. Since its inception, I’ve been sharing top notes from my journey with the goal of inspiring self-advocacy for better outcomes. It’s an honor and privilege to serve NKF’s kidney patient community in the spirit of hope to a better tomorrow.”

While attending other sessions at the conference, I learned how other healthcare groups were implementing best practices in patient engagement.  As a social worker I have always advocated for patients and family members and worked to empower patients to be their own best advocates.  In healthcare, it is wonderful to see that patient engagement is taking center stage — that the patients’ needs and experience are getting the attention they deserve.  Although great strides are being made, there is still work to do. The reality is, the ideal patient-centric experience is not the norm for most. However, conferences like these, where professionals and patients come together to share their experiences and best practices are invaluable to driving change forward.