There is an increasing number of patients with a chronic illness demanding primary care services. This demands for effective self-management support, including collaborative goal setting. Despite the fact that primary care professionals seem to have difficulties implementing goal setting, little information is available about the factors influencing the complexity of this process in primary care.
The aim of this study was to contribute to an understanding of the complexity of selfmanagement goal setting in primary care by exploring experts’ and primary care professionals’ experiences with self-management goal setting and viewpoints regarding influencing factors.
A descriptive qualitative research methodology was adopted. Two focus groups and three individual interviews were conducted (total participants n = 17). Thematic content analysis was used to analyse the data.
The findings were categorized into four main themes with subordinated subthemes. The themes focus around the complexity of setting non-medical goals and around professionals’ skills and attitudes to negotiate and decide about goals with patients. Furthermore, patients’ skills and attitudes for goal setting and the integration of goal setting in the time available were formulated as themes.
Setting self-management goals in primary care, especially in family medicine, might require a shift from a medical perspective to a biopsychosocial perspective, with an increasing role set aside for the professional to coach the patient in expressing his self-management goals and to take responsibility for these goals.