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The challenge of patient adherence

Authors Leslie R Martin, Summer L Williams, Kelly B Haskard, M Robin DiMatteo

Published 15 October 2005 Volume 2005:1(3) Pages 189—199

Leslie R Martin1, Summer L Williams2, Kelly B Haskard2, M Robin DiMatteo2

1Department of Psychology, La Sierra University, CA, USA; 2Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, CA, USA

Abstract: Quality healthcare outcomes depend upon patients’ adherence to recommended treatment regimens. Patient nonadherence can be a pervasive threat to health and wellbeing and carry an appreciable economic burden as well. In some disease conditions, more than 40% of patients sustain significant risks by misunderstanding, forgetting, or ignoring healthcare advice. While no single intervention strategy can improve the adherence of all patients, decades of research studies agree that successful attempts to improve patient adherence depend upon a set of key factors. These include realistic assessment of patients’ knowledge and understanding of the regimen, clear and effective communication between health professionals and their patients, and the nurturance of trust in the therapeutic relationship. Patients must be given the opportunity to tell the story of their unique illness experiences. Knowing the patient as a person allows the health professional to understand elements that are crucial to the patient’s adherence: beliefs, attitudes, subjective norms, cultural context, social supports, and emotional health challenges, particularly depression. Physician–patient partnerships are essential when choosing amongst various therapeutic options to maximize adherence. Mutual collaboration fosters greater patient satisfaction, reduces the risks of nonadherence, and improves patients’ healthcare outcomes.

Keywords: patient adherence, health outcomes, physician–patient relationship

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