BACKGROUND: Patients recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have specific educational and supportive needs. These could partly be addressed with mentoring by other patients living with RA. This qualitative study explores stakeholder perceptions towards peer mentoring in early RA care.
METHODS: Two focus groups with patients with early RA (n=10), one with patient organisation representatives (n=5), one with rheumatologists (n=8) and one with rheumatology nurses (n=5) were held. Two patient research partners supported analysis and interpretation.
RESULTS: Four overarching themes were found: added value, experience with peer mentoring, concerns and need in daily care. Patients and patient organisation representatives confirmed the potential of peer mentoring especially regarding sensitive topics not easily discussed with professionals. Patients felt it could provide additional understanding and recognition. Nurses and rheumatologists were less convinced of the added value of peer mentoring because patients never mentioned it and they were concerned about the loss of control over correct information provision. The need for peer mentoring was perceived as person and disease phase-dependent and should therefore be optional, rather than a care standard. The requirements for a peer mentorship programme remained challenging to define for stakeholders. However, all expressed the need for supervision by healthcare professionals and that peer mentors should be carefully selected, educated and matched to newly diagnosed patients.
CONCLUSION: Peer mentoring and its implementation remain vague concepts, especially for healthcare providers. However, patients are interested in mentoring by peers, and the current results may support in effectively implementing such programmes early in the disease.