Adherence or Compliance: What’s in a Word? According to Patients, Quite a Lot

Patient adherence vs complaince vs engagement

Adherence or Compliance: What’s in a Word? According to Patients, Quite a Lot

Conferences are great for a lot of reasons. They offer an opportunity to network, to learn and to share ideas about how to better serve patients. The patient experience was front and center at a panel I moderated at the CBI 15th Annual Patient Adherence and Access Summit.

The panel, titled, “Patient Initiated Campaigns – Strategies to Increase Support and Engagement,” included two patients who offered great insight into the challenges they face and their perceptions regarding industry attempts to aid their treatment regimen.

From an industry standpoint, the terms “adherence” and “compliance,” while not clinically the same, are used interchangeably at times. On the treatment side, service providers and specialty pharmacies use these terms frequently when describing programs that encourage patients to take their medication as prescribed.

Both patients at the panel stated emphatically that they felt the words adherence and compliance refer to “following rules or obeying.” They felt that the control was taken away from them. These terms are viewed as demanding, rather than something that was positive for them.

While the industry views adherence programs as positive, some patients may have a negative reaction based solely on the title of the program. It’s an important reminder that we need to constantly consider the holistic patient experience when designing programs to help improve the quality of patients’ lives.

At UBC, we are encouraging our manufacturer partners to approach adherence strategies through the lens of patient engagement. As patients become increasingly educated on their diseases and direct their own healthcare decisions, support programs need to evolve to speak to more engaged patient populations. That includes the strategies… and the name. As an industry, and as individual organizations, it may be appropriate to use terms like “adherence” and “compliance” to describe these programs, but when we speak to patients, we need to be mindful of this possible negative perception and adjust accordingly.

Download our free patient engagement whitepaper, “Nursing and Adherence Strategies to Increase Patient Engagement Throughout the Product Lifecycle: A Q & A,” to discover what we’ve learned from designing and implementing hundreds of customized clinical adherence programs.