Reflections: The Value of Patient Support Groups
A patient support group is defined as “a group of people with common experiences and concerns who provide emotional and moral support for one another.” Support groups fulfill many functions: educating patients/family, sharing the illness experience, providing strength to its members, raising public awareness, and fundraising. Some research has shown an improvement in quality of life of patients with head and neck cancer who have participated in support groups. A wide variety of support groups are available for otolaryngology patients, ranging from head and neck oncology to tinnitus and spasmodic dysphonia. Some support groups are face-to-face, while others use social media and the Internet. Surprisingly, engagement in patient support groups is low—about 10%. Some barriers to accessing support groups are awareness, time constraints, and confrontation of negative aspects of the disease. As otolaryngologists, we can help our patients access support groups so that they can benefit from these resources.