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Patient Self-Management Tools: An Overview

Michael J. Barrett, Critical Mass Consulting

This report defines self-management tools as technologies used by consumers to deal with their health issues outside formal medical institutions and provides a taxonomy for better understanding the types of self-management tools available.

This report defines self-management tools as technologies used by consumers to deal with their health issues outside formal medical institutions, and provides a taxonomy for better understanding the types of self-management tools available in today's market.

Self-management tools can be categorized as:

  • Subordinate: Tools such as video monitoring or home surveillance sensor systems provide limited patient discretion beyond agreement to use the tools.
  • Structured: These are tools that provide more active self-management, but in highly defined ways. Examples include sound and text reminders from a tabletop appliance or perhaps a personal digital assistant or telephone, or devices allowing a patient to transmit data such as blood pressure readings.
  • Collaborative: This category — which covers tools that have been the most thoroughly examined and embraced by disease management theorists — includes decision support aids, online interventions, chronic disease management aids, and patient education materials.
  • Autonomous: As the name suggests, tools for autonomous roles do not require regular participation or input from professionals. Internet sites such as eDiets and home heart defibrillators are examples of this category of tools.

While clinicians have devoted substantial attention to collaborative tools, less attention has been paid to the other categories. The report concludes that it is the combined effect of three factors — patient role, technology, and professional response — that makes for high-quality medicine.

The full report is available under Document Downloads.

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