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Self-management support should be routine part of primary health care delivery

Health Council of Canada releases report on self-management support for Canadians with chronic conditions

Toronto, ON (May 15, 2012) – Today the Health Council of Canada released Self-management support for Canadians with chronic health conditions: A focus for primary health care. The report explores how self-management support can improve patient outcomes and calls for health systems across Canada to provide self-management supports in a more systematic way. It profiles a range of practices and recommends targeted investments in self-management support strategies.Chronic disease in Canada costs more than $90 billion a year in lost productivity and health care costs. And with half of Canadians, many under the age of 50, reporting at least one chronic condition, these costs will continue to rise. Successful self-management can help save health resources and keep patients out of hospital for preventable incidences.

Self-management refers to the things a patient does to live well with chronic conditions, like monitoring symptoms, taking medication as prescribed, and recognizing what health-related behaviours will help manage their conditions. New research shows that patients who successfully self-manage tend to have reduced disease-related effects and may make better use of health services because they monitor symptoms effectively and can prevent or respond to problems before they become a crisis.

Self-management support includes education and health coaching and is key to ensuring patients manage their health successfully. In Canada, 95% of adults with multiple chronic conditions have a regular primary care provider – making this a clear area in which to anchor self-management support. Primary health care providers should be an ongoing source of self-management support to follow up with patients and link them to community services and specialists. The problem is that this support role is not yet a routine part of care in Canada.

The report discusses how primary health care providers can better assume this support role for patients with chronic conditions. Self-management support can start at routine primary care visits where providers can empower patients to confidently ask questions and get involved in making decisions about their health. The provider can assist with self-management education and technical skills, and can support personal goal-setting with the patient. Another important role for providers is to link patients to community-based programs. There are many promising programs that exist to support self-management, but patients may need their provider to point them in the right direction and follow up with them on their progress. Providers can also improve aspects of their practice environment in order to better serve patients with chronic conditions. Making better use of all members of a health care team can ease time pressures on physicians and provide patients with the expertise and coaching they need. Health care professionals like nurses, social workers and pharmacists can play a role (especially when many family doctors only have 15 minutes, on average, to devote to patient visits). Offering group visits and integrating self-management support programs directly into primary care settings can also yield positive outcomes.

Given their access to Canadians with chronic-disease, primary health care providers need to be enabled to deliver self-management support. We must invest in ongoing education for providers in self-management support, and encourage the expansion of primary health care teams which can use a variety of health care providers to deliver self-management support. Supporting and creating better links between primary care providers and community-based self management programs will help increase participation and engagement by patients in their own care.

“Self-management has great potential for patients, providers and Canadians,” said John G. Abbott, CEO, Health Council of Canada. “Patients and their families will enjoy better quality of life. Primary care providers will have the tools to help their patients succeed.”

Investing in ongoing, long-term support for self-management support needs to be a key priority for governments. Collaboration among governments, health care providers and chronic disease organizations can help fill gaps in service and create an integrated, system-wide approach to self-management support. Further recommendations to enable self-management support in a more systematic way can be found in the report.

About the Health Council of Canada

Created by the 2003 First Ministers’ Accord on Health Care Renewal, the Health Council of Canada is an independent national agency that reports on the progress of health care renewal. The Council provides a system-wide perspective on health care reform in Canada, and disseminates information on leading practices and innovation across the country. The Councillors are appointed by the participating provincial and territorial governments and the Government of Canada.

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Yeena Peng, Media Relations, Health Council of Canada
[email protected], O: 416-480-7100, C: 416-407-2635

Supporting Materials
>> Related Report