3 traits of self-management programs

3 traits of self-management programs
Julie Kosteas |

Disease management for diabetes is so 1999.  Today, it’s self-management that is all the buzz.  So as more health plans, healthcare systems, and life sciences enterprises promote programs, services and support around the theme of self-management, finding simple ways to spot the old disease management programs that have been re-skinned and marketed as self-management is important.  Look for these three differentiators when assessing products in this crowded marketplace:

The patient is the center of the product

A true self-management program is built for the patient, not as a means of supporting provider and payer workflows.  This is an important distinction because in a truly patient-centered self-management program, interactions between patients and providers become more engaging and impactful due to ongoing communication and information sharing.  When patients feel better supported their use of acute care settings dwindles.  By putting the patient first everyone benefits, including payers.

A village supports the patient

This may seem contradictory to the first point, but in order for a patient to effectively self-manage, he or she needs a ring of support from both formal and informal sources.  That’s the village. Formal support includes trained facilitators and health coaches.  Informal support comes from family and friends.  Since the vast majority of chronic disease self-management occurs outside of the acute care setting – at home, at work and at play –  the most effective programs are designed to maximize support away from clinical settings.   On demand access to peers and health educators combined with frequent light-touch positive reinforcements means patients have a much better chance to stay on track and enrolled.

Realistic goals are encouraged

Outrageous health claims minimizing the amount of hard work and discipline required to change behavior are commonplace in digital health coaching programs.  But the master self-managers know that by setting  small, realistic and attainable goals, that they stick with over time, they increase their chance of success.  That’s why the most effective self-management programs focus on crafting real, not ideal success goals, from day one.


Next time you hear about a new digital health program to rock your world, take a careful look.  If the program is designed and built for a real person, can support that real person amidst health challenges and life demands while providing tools and support for setting and tracking realistic goals, you just might have discovered the real deal: a great self-management program.