Research to reveal value placed on 'self-management support' by patients with long-term conditions

New understanding of the value patients place on 'self-management support' in coping with conditions such as chronic pain is to be developed.

A team of scientists from the University of Aberdeen are leading one of three research projects in the UK that will use innovative ‘discrete choice’ techniques, as a way of finding out the preferences of patients with long-term health conditions, as to the self-management support they receive.

The Health Foundation, an independent healthcare charity, has made three awards totalling £480,000 to the University, and Sheffield and York Universities, to generate new knowledge in this area which will ultimately help decision makers within the NHS to identify, adapt and refine support for their patients.

Self-management support is the assistance given to those with long-term conditions to handle their health on a daily basis. Better self-management support means that patients move away from being passive recipients of care to having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make informed decisions through useful collaborations and conversations with health professionals.

All three projects will run separately from each other but combined will significantly build up knowledge of value and support for self-management. The results will provide NHS commissioners, providers and clinicians with the evidence needed to implement further support for patients whose lives can be improved through supported self-management.

The three projects are:


  • University of Aberdeen   Principal Investigator Dr Christopher Burton and his colleagues will focus specifically on how people with chronic pain value self-management support that is made personal.
  • University of Sheffield   Principal Investigator Dr Hasan Basarir and his colleagues will look specifically into the value of self-management support interventions for people with diabetes in both quality of life and monetary terms.
  • University of York   Dr Andrea Manca and colleagues will conduct a project that will produce evidence into the value that people with long-term conditions place on self-management.

Dr Christopher Burton, from the University of Aberdeen’s Centre of Academic Primary Care, said: “Self-management support aims to enable people with long term conditions to take an active role in managing their health. It commonly involves patients developing an understanding of and following complex medical regimens, as well as making challenging changes in their lifestyle to help manage their condition.

“While most medical and surgical treatments are standardised, to be delivered in the same way to most individuals with a given condition, self-management involves making adaptations which are personal. Despite this, much self-management support is delivered in standardised packages and formats, rather than personalised to individuals and their circumstances. The ways in which self-management support may be personalised include who provides support, what information is provided, and how much the process focuses on the individual’s own goals and capabilities.

“In this research we will examine how individuals with chronic pain value the ways in which self-management support could be made personal to them as individuals. The method we will use is a Discrete Choice Experiment. In this, participants will choose between hypothetical packages of self-management support which have different combinations of personalisation features. Analysis of the experiment will allow us to compare the value of these personalisation features and to look for clusters of features which are particularly popular.”

Helen Crisp, Assistant Director of Research at the Health Foundation said: “We are looking forward to working with internationally renowned experts in the field of discrete choice experiments in healthcare at Aberdeen, Sheffield and York. The combination of these three projects will produce new knowledge and thinking about person-centred care, allowing health providers to adapt their services based on what patients really value in terms of their care. This can also help reduce healthcare resources wasted on care that is not effective for the individuals concerned. The findings from these projects will help us to further our mission to improve the quality of care.”

The research findings for all three projects will be available in early 2016.