The Problem of Patient Non-Adherence, and What to Do About It

The Problem of Patient Non-Adherence and What to Do About It

In an ideal world, patients receive care plans, and they stick to them. However, this is not reality. Did you know approximately about 50% of patients do not stick to their treatment recommendations? This is a serious and expensive problem in the medical industry. According to a study conducted in 2018, the total national cost of medication non-adherence in Australia especially, with conditions such as hypertension, dyslipidemia and depression, was $10.4 billion equating to $517 per adult. This means if patients stick to their care plans, not only does their health improve, but they also contribute to an improved health situation in their country.


What Are The Causes Of Patient Non-adherence?

If healthcare plans help them improve their health and save them thousands of dollars in terms of post-complication treatments, then why do they not stick to their plans?


The reasons, to be honest, are many- for some, it’s general forgetfulness. Some people can’t afford the treatments, or their medical insurance doesn’t cover the care plans. For some people the reasons are very different, ranging from the stigma attached to taking such medication or the probable and adverse effects associated with its prolonged use.


Some people, religiously follow the treatment plan initially, but once they see it’s working or they feel the symptoms disappear, they do no follow through with the plan. That’s when they need to be educated. They must come to all of the appointments and take all of their medication. It’s for the greater good, both for themselves and the overall health of the public.


So What Can Be Done To Increase Patient Adherence?

The process to ensure patients adhere to their care plans can be in three steps.


  1. Gauge Adherence

The first step is to understand what your patients’ concerns and motivations are behind the non-adherence. Create a no-judgement zone for them to openly discuss what is causing them to disregard their healthcare plans. One way you can get some conclusive answers is by asking them specific questions pertaining to their case. You might have to do some homework yourself before you bring them in for questions. Do they have a history of non-adherence? Are they financially unstable, or they have recently become redundant from their job? If you have their case history at hand, you will be able to understand their situation better.


  1. Use Motivational Interviewing

The next step to ensure patient adherence to treatment plans is when you follow up with them regarding the situation. When you ask them questions, create a safe space for them. Practice empathy when questioning. Most of the patients have strong reasoning behind their non-adherence. So learn about them and their situation. Another important aspect to keep in mind is that the patients are likely to get defensive or feel attacked when the line of questioning seems to be directive or assigning blame. You will have to remain calm and avoid arguments. Reassure them that you believe that they can be self-sufficient and be prepared to listen. 


  1. Plan For Unintended Non-adherence

As we have discussed earlier, people have strong reasons to not follow their plans. Often these reasons are unintended such as forgetfulness, not being aware of the care plans. For patients who do not understand their treatment plans, it is a good practice to educate them, and simplify accordingly. Perhaps give out brochures and booklets as most patients find it hard to retain verbal communication or feel there is plenty of information to process. Create patient reminders, pill cards or schedules and periodical check-ins to ensure adherence to the care plans. If possible, reduce out-of-pocket costs for people and arrange payment plans for those without Medicare or private health insurance.


Whatever process you choose to maintain, always follow up with your patients to see their progress or if they need any additional help and support to stay on their care plans. If possible, utilise technology to support follow up. Ask your patients if they have access to a mobile or a tablet where they can register for appointment reminders or set up alarms. These interventions have been proven to improve patient adherence.


These are the steps you can follow to ensure your patients adhere to their care plans. If you require assistance with patient adherence, we can help you formalise consultations with their patients to get the most out of the practitioner-patient relationship. We can also aid in a better patient experience by training staff in empathy. Finally, we can help you grow and scale your clinic(s) through systemisation. Contact us for a chat today!


Medication Adherence: WHO Cares?

Pharmacist-led medication non-adherence intervention: reducing the economic burden placed on the Australian health care system

5 Ways to Improve Medication Adherence in Chronic Care Patients

Medication Compliance 10 Strategies to Improve Patient Compliance with Medication

Co-Authored by Afshan Iqbal

Ben Lai is the founder of Sales Ethos, which provides emotionally intelligent sales training in Melbourne, Australia. His purpose is to empower sales and health professionals to become greater influencers. Ultimately, this means impacting the lives of their clients while increasing the profitability of the companies they work for.

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