Patient Adherence vs. Patient Compliance

Patient Adherence: Part 1 of 3

Whether or not a patient adheres to their medication regimen is essential to their overall health and well-being. And because patient adherence is considered an important public health concern, we will take the next few weeks to focus on three areas of patient adherence: how it differs from patient compliance, methods to help improve adherence, and ways to measure adherence.

We’ll kick off this first part of our three-part series by looking at the difference between patient adherence and patient compliance, which are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two.

The World Health Organization defines medication adherence as “the degree to which the person’s behavior corresponds with the agreed recommendations from a healthcare provider.”

Compliance on the other hand, is the extent to which a patient’s behavior matches the prescriber’s advice. In other words, compliance refers to the patient being obedient to the physician’s authority, whereas adherence refers to the collaboration between patient and physician to improve the patient’s health, by integrating the physician’s medical opinion with the patient’s lifestyle, values, and preferences for care.

Patient adherence is more than just following doctor’s orders.

No two patients are the same, so what might work for one patient may not work for another. Therefore, coming up with a tailored adherence plan is essential to successful treatment and it’s important for healthcare providers to know about the different types of non-adherence so they can get ahead of it before it happens. Here are a few examples of different types of non-adherence:

  • Non-Fulfillment Adherence. This occurs when the provider writes a prescription, but it never gets filled.
  • Non-Persistence Adherence. This refers to patients who decide to stop taking a medication after starting it, without being advised by a health professional to do so.
  • Unintentional Non-Adherence. This arises from a capacity and resource limitation (e.g., problem accessing prescriptions, costs, competing demands, etc.) that prevents patients from implementing their decisions to follow treatment recommendations.
  • Non-Conforming Non-Adherence. This occurs when medications are not taken as prescribed (e.g., skipping doses, taking medications at incorrect times or at incorrect doses, taking more than prescribed, etc.).

Consequences of Non-Adherence

Medication non-adherence can have negative consequences not only for the patient but also for the healthcare provider including medication waste, disease progression, a lower quality of life, etc. Point-of-care medication dispensing gives patients their medications onsite, which results in an immediate start on treatment, a lower risk of relapse, and prevents unnecessary hospitalizations.

If you’re not currently dispensing medication in house, we’d love to talk with you about how your office can benefit and how easy it is to get started. Contact us today.

Sources: World Health Organization & U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health