Self-management priority setting and decision-making in adults with multimorbidity: a narrative review of literature

Int J Nurs Stud. 2015 Mar;52(3):744-55. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2014.10.010. Epub 2014 Oct 28.


Objectives: The purpose of this narrative review was to synthesize current research findings related to self-management, in order to better understand the processes of priority setting and decision-making among adults with multimorbidity.

Design: A narrative literature review was undertaken, synthesizing findings from published, peer-reviewed empirical studies that addressed priority setting and/or decision-making in self-management of multimorbidity.

Data sources: A search of PubMed, PsychINFO, CINAHL and SocIndex databases was conducted from database inception through December 2013. References lists from selected empirical studies and systematic reviews were evaluated to identify any additional relevant articles.

Review methods: Full text of potentially eligible articles were reviewed and selected for inclusion if they described empirical studies that addressed priority setting or decision-making in self-management of multimorbidity among adults. Two independent reviewers read each selected article and extracted relevant data to an evidence table. Processes and factors of multimorbidity self-management were identified and sorted into categories of priority setting, decision-making, and facilitators/barriers.

Results: Thirteen articles were selected for inclusion; most were qualitative studies describing processes, facilitators, and barriers of multimorbidity self-management. The findings revealed that patients prioritize a dominant chronic illness and re-prioritize over time as conditions and treatments change; that multiple facilitators (e.g. support programs) and barriers (e.g. lack of financial resources) impact individuals' self-management priority setting and decision-making ability; as do individual beliefs, preferences, and attitudes (e.g., perceived personal control, preferences regarding treatment).

Conclusions: Health care providers need to be cognizant that individuals with multimorbidity engage in day-to-day priority setting and decision-making among their multiple chronic illnesses and respective treatments. Researchers need to develop and test interventions that support day-to-day priority setting and decision-making and improve health outcomes for individuals with multimorbidity.

Keywords: Chronic disease; Comorbidity; Decision-making; Disease management; Priority setting; Self-management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity*
  • Decision Making*
  • Health Priorities*
  • Humans
  • Self Care / methods*