Helping patients help themselves: A systematic review of self-management support strategies in primary health care practice

Sarah Dineen-Griffin, Victoria Garcia-Cardenas, Kylie Williams, Shalom I. Benrimoj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Primary health professionals are well positioned to support the delivery of patient self-management in an evidence-based, structured capacity. A need exists to better understand the active components required for effective self-management support, how these might be delivered within primary care, and the training and system changes that would subsequently be needed. Objectives (1) To examine self-management support interventions in primary care on health outcomes for a wide range of diseases compared to usual standard of care; and (2) To identify the effective strategies that facilitate positive clinical and humanistic outcomes in this setting. Method A systematic review of randomized controlled trials evaluating self-management support interventions was conducted following the Cochrane handbook & PRISMA guidelines. Published literature was systematically searched from inception to June 2019 in PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science. Eligible studies assessed the effectiveness of individualized interventions with follow-up, delivered face-to-face to adult patients with any condition in primary care, compared with usual standard of care. Matrices were developed that mapped the evidence and components for each intervention. The methodological quality of included studies were appraised. Results 6,510 records were retrieved. 58 studies were included in the final qualitative synthesis. Findings reveal a structured patient-provider exchange is required in primary care (including a one-on-one patient-provider consultation, ongoing follow up and provision of self-help materials). Interventions should be tailored to patient needs and may include combinations of strategies to improve a patient’s disease or treatment knowledge; independent monitoring of symptoms, encouraging self-treatment through a personalized action plan in response worsening symptoms or exacerbations, psychological coping and stress management strategies, and enhancing responsibility in medication adherence and lifestyle choices. Followup may include tailored feedback, monitoring of progress with respect to patient set healthcare goals, or honing problem-solving and decision-making skills. Theoretical models provided a strong base for effective SMS interventions. Positive outcomes for effective SMS included improvements in clinical indicators, health-related quality of life, self-efficacy (confidence to self-manage), disease knowledge or control. An SMS model has been developed which sets the foundation for the design and evaluation of practical strategies for the construct of self-management support interventions in primary healthcare practice. Conclusions These findings provide primary care professionals with evidence-based strategies and structure to deliver SMS in practice. For this collaborative partnership approach to be more widely applied, future research should build on these findings for optimal SMS service design and upskilling healthcare providers to effectively support patients in this collaborative process.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0220116
Number of pages29
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2019


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