Medication Nonadherence: Finding Solutions to a Costly Medical Problem

Harold Gottlieb, PhD

In This Article


While patient nonadherence to medication regimens remains one of the most important health care concerns, it is surprising that research in this area is sorely lacking. There is evidence, however, that patient nonadherence to medication is a multicausal phenomenon. The seriousness of the illness, the cost of treatment, and treatment side effects can all affect compliance. The patient's age, mental status, and memory capacity are also important factors in the patient's compliance. The complexity of the recommendation, the duration of the regimen, the type of medical advice, the clarity or unclarity of the written instructions, and the amount of instruction provided are examples of factors that impact patient adherence.

Strategies for adherence include raising information and skill levels, altering characteristics of the regimen, and improving the relationship between the provider and the patient. Provider and patient awareness with regard to medication adherence can be enhanced with the creative application of behavioral contracts. Adherence-promoting efforts can also include rewards and reinforcement strategies.


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