An integrative review of e-learning in the delivery of self-management support training for health professionals

Sharon Lawn, Xiaojuan Zhi, Andrea Morello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


Background: E-learning involves delivery of education through Information and Communication Technology (ITC) using a wide variety of instructional designs, including synchronous and asynchronous formats. It can be as effective as face-to-face training for many aspects of health professional training. There are, however, particular practices and skills needed in providing patient self-management support, such as partnering with patients in goal-setting, which may challenge conventional practice norms. E-learning for the delivery of self-management support (SMS) continuing education to existing health professionals is a relatively new and growing area with limited studies identifying features associated with best acquisition of skills in self-management support. Methods: An integrative literature review examined what is known about e-learning for self-management support. This review included both qualitative and quantitative studies that focused on e-learning provided to existing health professionals for their continuing professional development. Papers were limited to those published in English between 2006 and 2016. Content analysis was used to organize and focus and describe the findings. Results: The search returned 1505 articles, with most subsequently excluded based on their title or abstract. Fifty-two full text articles were obtained and checked, with 42 excluded because they did not meet the full criteria. Ten peer-reviewed articles were included in this review. Seven main themes emerged from the content analysis: participants and professions; time; package content; guiding theoretical framework; outcome measures; learning features or formats; and learning barriers. These themes revealed substantial heterogeneity in instructional design and other elements of e-learning applied to SMS, indicating that there is still much to understand about how best to deliver e-learning for SMS skills development. Conclusions: Few e-learning approaches meet the need for high levels of interactivity, reflection, practice and application to practice for health professionals learning to deliver effective SMS. Findings suggest that the context of SMS for patients with chronic condition matters to how health professional training is delivered, to ensure partnership and person-centred care. Further creative approaches and their rigorous evaluation are needed to deliver completely online learning in this space. Blended learning that combines e-learning and face-to-face methods is suggested to support SMS skills development for health professionals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number183
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2017


  • Blended learning
  • E-learning
  • Integrative review
  • Self-management
  • Self-management support


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