Patients with diabetes, heart disease or other chronic conditions that require lifestyle changes, and those with conditions that require a lot of coping, such as cancer or HIV, are hard to treat within the confines of a 10-minute office visit. Common sense and limited data suggest peers can help.
The problems of chronic illness are complex and require long term involvement, well beyond the resources of most practices. An adjunct that may work for some patients is the self-help or support group. Referring patients to talk regularly with peers facing the same problems can be a useful therapy, reducing patients’ sense of isolation and providing a place to share information and concerns related to their disease and treatment.