Communicating with older adults with long-term conditions about self-management goals: A systematic review and thematic synthesis

Michael T. Lawless, Phoebe Drioli-Phillips, Mandy M. Archibald, Rachel C. Ambagtsheer, Alison L. Kitson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: To synthesise a body of fine-grained observational research on communication between healthcare professionals (HCPs), older adults, and carers regarding self-management goals and actions. Methods: We conducted a systematic review, searching nine electronic databases and the grey literature. Two reviewers independently selected for inclusion following a two-stage process and studies and discrepancies were resolved through consultation with the review team. Results: 898 records were retrieved, and eight studies were included in the review. Aggregative thematic analysis resulted in 13 categories of communication practices across three decision-making domains: (1) initiating: actions occurring prior to the commitment point; (2) proposing: putting forward a course of action; and (3) committing and closing: committing (or not) to the course of action. Conclusions: Despite an increasing emphasis on the importance of personalised care planning and shared decision-making (SDM) to support older people's health and wellbeing, HCPs did not consistently practice this approach and, in some cases, worked in opposition to it. Practice implications: We encourage HCPs to prepare older adults to engage actively with SDM and the goal setting process by employing patient-centred communication resources. These could assist with identifying different types of goals that are realistic and relevant to patients in daily life.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Early online date20 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Feb 2021


  • Aged
  • Chronic illness and disease
  • Conversation analysis
  • Frail elderly
  • Health communication
  • Qualitative research
  • Self-Management
  • Shared decision-making
  • Systematic review

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