The benefits and challenges of established peer support programmes for patients, informal caregivers, and healthcare providers

Jin Hui Joo, Lee Bone, Joan Forte, Erin Kirley, Thomas Lynch, Hanan Aboumatar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Peer support programmes that provide services for various health conditions have been in existence for many years; however, there is little study of their benefits and challenges. Our goal was to explore how existing peer support programmes help patients with a variety of health conditions, the challenges that these programmes meet, and how they are addressed. Methods: We partnered with 7 peer support programmes operating in healthcare and community settings and conducted 43 semi-structured interviews with key informants. Audiorecordings were transcribed and qualitative analysis was conducted using grounded theory methods. Results: Peer support programmes offer informational and psychosocial support, reduce social isolation, and connect patients and caregivers to others with similar health issues. These programmes provide a supportive community of persons who have personal experience with the same health condition and who can provide practical information about self-care and guidance in navigating the health system. Peer support is viewed as different from and complementary to professional healthcare services. Existing programmes experience challenges such as matching of peer supporter and peer recipient and maintaining relationship boundaries. They have gained experience in addressing some of these challenges. Conclusions: Peer support programmes can help persons and caregivers manage health conditions but also face challenges that need to be addressed through organizational processes. Peer support programmes have relevance for improving healthcare systems, especially given the increased focus on becoming more patient-centred. Further study of peer programmes and their relevance to improving individuals' well-being is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)903-912
Number of pages10
JournalFamily practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • caregiver
  • health services research
  • patient-centred research
  • peer support
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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