Promoting and supporting self-management for adults living in the community with physical chronic illness: A systematic review of the effectiveness and meaningfulness of the patient-practitioner encounter

JBI Libr Syst Rev. 2009;7(13):492-582. doi: 10.11124/01938924-200907130-00001.


Background: There has been a reported rise in the number of people with chronic illness (also referred to as long-term disease) in the Western world. One hundred million people in the United States have at least one chronic condition and in the United Kingdom (UK) as many as 17.5 million adults may be living with chronic disease. New models of care have been developed which recognise the complexities of managing care where there is overlap between the wider community, the health care system and provider organisations, for example, the Chronic Care Model and the Expert Patient Programme. These new models herald a shift away from the idea of chronically ill patients as passive recipients of care towards active engagement, in partnership with health professionals, in managing their own care.Partnership, ideally, involves collaborative care and self-management education. This may support self-care alongside medical, preventative and health maintenance interventions. In this context the nature of the patient-practitioner consultation in promoting self-care takes on a new importance.

Objective: The overall objective of the review was to determine the best available evidence regarding the promotion and support of self-care management for adults living in the community with chronic illness during the patient-practitioner encounter. Specifically the review sought to determine: What is the effectiveness of the patient-practitioner encounter in promoting and supporting self-care management of people with chronic illness? What are the individual and organisational factors which help or hinder recognition, promotion and support of chronic disease self-care management strategies? What are the similarities and differences between how 'effectiveness' is defined in this context by patients and different practitioners?

Inclusion criteria: The review focussed on self-caring adults aged nineteen years and older living in the community, with a physical chronic illness, and not currently being treated as an in-patient. For example, people with diabetes, asthma, arthritis, coronary disease, lung disease, heart failure, epilepsy, kidney disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Since patients meet various professionals in a variety of community settings regarding their care, a practitioner in this review included doctors (physicians and General Practitioners), nurses, nurse specialists, dieticians, podiatrists and community health workers.A variety of outcomes measures was used to evaluate effective self-care management. These included physiological measurements such as: HbA1c, blood pressure, body weight, lipids; lifestyle measurements, for example physical activity; and self-care determinants such as knowledge, attitude; and self-care behaviours regarding, for example, diet and physical exercise, and medication. The outcome measures used to explore the meaningfulness of the patient-practitioner encounter, concerned patients', physicians' and nurses' views and perceptions of self-care management and support.The review considered all types of quantitative and qualitative evidence regarding the patient-practitioner encounter where self-care in chronic illness was the focus. The quantitative studies reviewed included systematic reviews, randomised controlled trials (RCTs), quasi-experimental studies, and survey studies.Qualitative studies reviewed included interview designs, vignette technique, qualitative evaluation, grounded theory, and exploratory descriptive design.

Search strategy: The search sought to find both published and unpublished studies between 1990 and 2005. The year 1990 was deemed appropriate since it precedes the development of the Chronic Care Model in which self-management support for people living with chronic illness is heralded as an important part of care-management. An initial search of CINAHL and MEDLINE databases was undertaken to identify appropriate search terms regarding self-care and chronic illness. A search strategy was then developed using all identified MeSH headings and key words and the following databases were searched: - Ovid CINAHL; Ovid MEDLINE (R); Ovid EMBASE; Ovid EBM Reviews (CDSR, ACP Journal Club, DARE, CCTR); ASSIA; SIGLE; Digital Dissertations; and British Library's Zetoc Services.

Data collection: Thirty-two papers were considered applicable to the review topic from the title and abstract. Two reviewers used the appropriate critical appraisal instruments designed by the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) to assess methodological quality of papers retrieved for review, and agreed on the papers for inclusion. A total of 18 papers reporting 16 studies were included in the review (3 papers reported from the same study): 12 quantitative studies, 5 qualitative studies and 1 study using mixed methods. These papers were heterogeneous in nature, diverse in subject matter and considered a wide range of physiological, psychological, sociological and behavioural self-care outcome measures. Data were extracted by the two independent reviewers using a variety of data extraction instruments developed by JBI.

Data analysis: The heterogeneous nature of the quantitative studies prevented meta-analysis and so these studies are presented in narrative summary. Meta-synthesis of the qualitative data was performed for the six qualitative pieces following the process of meta-synthesis set out in the JBI-QARI software package. The process of meta-synthesis embodied in this programme involves the aggregation or synthesis of findings. Seven syntheses were produced from fifty findings.

Results: For effective patient-centeredness to be established patients should be able to discuss their own ideas about self-care actions, including lifestyle management in an unhurried fashion and with a practitioner who has the time and who is willing to listen. Patient-centred interventions aimed at providers such as patient-centred training and patient-centred materials were shown to have a positive effect on the patient-centeredness of an encounter, but their effect on self-care outcomes was not clear. Interventions directed at enhancing patient participation in the encounter were shown to effect diabetes self-care and self-behaviour.Nurses were shown to have an effective role in educating patients and facilitating adherence to treatment. Patients found nurses approachable and some studies showed that when given the choice, patients were more likely to contact a nurse (than a doctor) regarding their care.Professional interventions such as education, and organisational interventions such as management of regular review and follow up, were shown to improve process outcomes in the management of a patient-practitioner encounter. When patient-orientated interventions were added to professional and organisational interventions, in which patient education and / or the role of the nurse was enhanced, patient health outcomes were improved.The different patient-orientated interventions reviewed highlighted some of the elements that can effectively support self-care management during a patient-practitioner encounter. These are information giving, including the use of a guidebook, the use of care plans, the structure of treatment using checklists, and education and support for staff in 'collaboratives'.Comprehensive, well-paced, user-friendly information is effective in supporting and promoting self-care management in a variety of ways. It informs and reassures patients and their families. It can be used during a doctor/patient consultation to assist communication between doctors and patients, and may help patients feel more involved in their care.For information to effect self-care management, it is important that it is given at diagnosis and from then onwards so that the implications of good self-care management in relation to long term health outcomes are established.Care plans and self-management plans can be useful in facilitating patients' discussion of self-care actions and lifestyle management.Organisational factors affect opportunities for professionals to support patient self-care management. These include time, resources, the existing configuration and expectations of a consultation, the opportunity for open access to appointments, the ability to see the same doctor and early referral to other professional groups.Correlational design studies indicated that individual psychological factors, such as attachment style and autonomy support given to a patient during a patient-practitioner encounter, have a relationship to self-care behaviours and outcomes.Correlational design studies indicated that both general communication and diabetic specific communication used during a patient-practitioner encounter have a positive effect on patient self-care management and outcomes for patients with diabetes.Consultations about self-care for patients with chronic illness tend to be medically focussed and do not always include discussion of patients' views of the routines and self-care actions. This can lead to tension and unresolved issues between the patient and professional.Studies in the context of diabetes self-management reveal that professionals can effectively support patients in a number of ways. These include assisting the orientation of patients towards skills and competencies needed for self-care; sharing knowledge and information; endorsing the patient's view that he or she is the most reliable and accurate source of information about his or her physiological function; trusting the patients' interpretations of their physiological function, and modifying advice in response to patients in accordance with their bodily cues and experiences.

Conclusion: The nature of the patient-practitioner encounter is multifaceted involving patient, professional and organisational factors. Patient-orientated interventions are the most effective in effecting positive self-care behavioural and health outcomes. Patient participation in the patient-practitioner encounter is a key factor in influencing self-care outcomes. Patients' self-care management involves social as well as medical management. Professionals need to recognise and value patients' views and experiences in order to support their self-care management.

Implications for practice: Patients need information at diagnosis and from then onwards to enable good self-care management. It is important to enable patient participation during the patient-practitioner encounter.For patients' self-care needs to be addressed opportunities for patients to talk about their diet, routines and lifestyle management need to be incorporated into the encounter. Extra time in consultations may be required. Care plans can help to facilitate this discussion.To support patients with their self-care management, both sharing of medical and nursing knowledge, and recognition of the value of patient's knowledge and experiences are vital.Nurses relate well to patients who want to discuss self-care management.Professional interventions and organisational interventions can improve the management of a patient-practitioner encounter. Patient-orientated interventions in addition to good management of the encounter can improve health care outcomes.

Implications for research: Patient focussed interventions have a positive effect on patient self-care outcomes. Further research regarding patients' self-care and health outcomes and behaviours is needed to establish which patient focussed interventions in particular are effective.Qualitative research has proved to be important in understanding the different ways that professionals and patients approach self-care management during an encounter. More qualitative research would assist an understanding of the processes that inspire effective partnership between patients and professionals to support the establishment of self-care management of chronic illness.