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Shefali Haldar

Graduated: June 14, 2019

Thesis/Dissertation Title:

Patient-Peer Support to Improve Quality and Safety in the Hospital

Patient safety is a critical and persistent problem impacting health care systems around the world. Despite major financial and technological investments to improve this problem, medical errors remain a leading cause of death in the United States. As experts in the care they receive, patients offer unique insights about the source of these problems and have key roles in their prevention. However, most interventions have not included patients as equal partners in safeguarding their own care.
Peer support is one type of intervention that recognizes the valuable insights patients could provide for each other to improve the quality and safety of their care. In many other health care settings, digital peer interventions have been implemented, and have demonstrated benefits such as increased knowledge, empowerment, and self-efficacy—many factors that also influence patient involvement in safety. Yet, we know little about how peer support might translate into the context of patient safety, particularly in a hospital setting.
In this thesis, I investigate how peer support technologies can improve the quality and safety of a patient’s hospital stay. I first examine what opportunities exist for peer support in the hospital and articulate design recommendations for technologies to enable this support. I then describe my design, implementation, and deployment of a fully-functioning patient-peer support technology for the hospital setting. Finally, I show how patients used this technology and how it impacted their hospitalization. My findings reveal that peer support can be a powerful tool that equips patients with the support they need to navigate their hospital stay, and can help patients take proactive steps toward improving the quality and safety of their care.

Last Known Position:

Associate Director of Outcomes Research at Merck Pharmaceuticals


Wanda Pratt, Thomas Gallagher, Ari Pollack, Andrea Hartzler