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Naming the elephant in the room: 3 Reasons why opening-up a conversation about adherence matters

Non-adherence is considered one of the biggest global health challenges of our time. A staggering €125 billion annually is lost in Europe due to non-adherence to medication. This hefty price tag arises due to medication waste and unnecessary hospitalisation and care. Yet little is invested in prevention and education.

Non-adherence is completely normal, human behaviour.

Research suggests patients can find it difficult to tell healthcare professionals they aren’t taking their medication as recommended. Healthcare professionals often believe their patients are taking their medication. Even when adherence issues come up in routine consultations, clinicians can feel ‘out of their depth’ in how to deal with them.

But talking about adherence matters, even if there’s no quick fix.

Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. Non-adherence is completely normal, human behaviour. How many of us haven’t had the best intentions to floss/ exercise/ eat a healthy diet/ finally get our head around cyber security – and yet, our best intentions get swamped by ‘the everyday’ or needs that are conflicting with what we know to be ‘right’. Normalising non-adherence by having an open, honest conversation could build trust and ensure that decisions about treatment are based on facts rather than assumptions- making it more likely the patient will benefit from care.

  2. Healthcare professionals often have extensive knowledge and experience that speaks to the benefits of the medications they prescribe but little knowledge of their patients’ everyday lives, plans and past experiences. It may seem unfathomable to a doctor that their patient is non-adherent to vital, lifesaving medication; but reasons for non-adherence are often complex and personal. Talking to the patient about their feelings towards the medicine/treatment, asking if everything is clear or if they foresee issues, allows for invisible niggles and concerns to become visible.

  3. When taking the potential long-term risks of medication ‘holidays’ and refusal; and the cost of long-term waste of medicines and care into consideration – spending an extra five minutes now makes sense. Consultation time is precious, which is exactly why it is key to uncover and unravel any adherence issues and assumptions now to save time, effort, and money down the line.

In this story

John  Weinman

John Weinman

Professor of Psychology as applied to Medicines

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