In Germany, the term 'self-help friendliness' (SHF) describes a strategy to institutionalize co-operation of healthcare institutions with mutual aid or self-help groups of chronically ill patients. After a short explanation of the SHF concept and its development, we will present findings from a longitudinal study on the implementation of SHF in three German hospitals. Specifically, we wanted to know (i) to what degree SHF had been put into practice after the initial development phase in the pilot hospitals, (ii) whether it was possible to maintain the level of implementation of SHF in the course of at least 1 year and (iii) which opinions exist about the inclusion of SHF criteria in quality management systems. With only minor restrictions, the findings provide support for the usefulness, practicability, sustainability and transferability of SHF. Limitations of our empirical study are the small number of hospitals, the above average motivation of their staff, the small response rate in the staff-survey and the inability to get enough data from members of self-help groups. The research instrument for measuring SHF was adequate and fulfils the most important scientific quality criteria in a German context. We conclude that the implementation of SHF leads to more patient-centredness in healthcare institutions and thus improves satisfaction, self-management, coping and health literacy of patients. SHF is considered as an adequate approach for reorienting healthcare institutions in the sense of the Ottawa Charta, and particularly suitable for health promoting hospitals.
Keywords: health promoting hospitals; reorienting health services; self-help friendliness; self-help groups.
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