Self-care and the doctor-patient relationship

Med Care. 2002 Apr;40(4 Suppl):II40-44. doi: 10.1097/00005650-200204001-00007.


Objectives: An important factor contributing to the steep rise in health care costs in the late 1960s was a reversal from the predominance of acute illness to that of chronic disease. Beginning with the philosophy of Illich and Levin, and the practical instruments of Fries, Sehnert, Vickery, and Ferguson, a new movement in patient self-care emerged. However, such programs were not integrated into organized medical care plans and though theoretically attractive had not yet proven to improve health or decrease costs.

Methods: The contributions to the self-care movement made under the intellectual guidance of Halsted Holman and the relevant literature produced are reviewed.

Results: While caring for chronic rheumatic diseases, Halsted Holman discovered that patient self-report was a more powerful predictor of outcome than were traditional biologic measures such as anti-DNA antibodies. Realizing the role that patient knowledge of their own disease course might play, he developed the Arthritis Self-Management course, a lay-led self-care program emphasizing patient participation. Holman and colleagues next elucidated the pivotal importance of Bandura's theory of self-efficacy in the improved patient outcomes initially observed. These self-care techniques were woven into the structure of the Midpeninsula Health Service, showing for the first time reductions in subsequent office visits and enhanced quality. In partnership with Kaiser Health Plan, these techniques showed improvements in self-efficacy health behaviors, status, and use in a randomized trial of more than 1,000 patients.

Conclusion: Halsted Holman and colleagues have played a seminal role in the translation of academic self-care theory into community practice.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / history
  • California
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Health Services Research / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Rheumatic Diseases / therapy
  • Self Care*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Treatment Outcome