What is the role of a peer support specialist in assisting people in their efforts to communicate more effectively with their physicians?

Peer support specialists have several methods to promote communications between doctors and their patients. First, they can assist the individual in learning about possible forms of treatment, including medications. They can also help people to develop notes, including questions and important information they wish to convey to the doctor. The person is then advised that they can take those notes into their appointments and provide a copy for the physician to ensure that the information and questions are addressed. The individual is informed that they can request a copy to be included in their medical record. The specialist may also accompany the person to their appointment, if this is desired by the person receiving services and they are willing to sign a consent form to share information with the peer specialist, and provide a copy to the treating clinician. Peer specialists must follow the same laws and regulations regarding confidentiality and HIPAA as clinical staff. In situations like this, it is important that the peer specialist and the clinician understand each others’ role and assist the individual receiving services in achieving their recovery goals. Peer support specialists can also assist the individual and the doctor in using Shared Decision Making to improve communication and to ensure that the individual is an equal partner in their relationship. Finally, they can assist individuals in preparing Advance Directives so that treating staff are aware of the person’s wishes about treatment related topics and contact information for any person that they wish to act as their proxy.

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