What does adherence to therapy mean?

Adherence to Therapy” can be defined as the patient’s ability to fully and accurately observe a physician’s advice and instructions. While adherence to therapy plays a key role in treating every type of disease, its importance is often overlooked. There are many reasons a patient may not adhere to therapy, however, and it is not always due to negligence on their behalf. 

Taking treatments lightly can cause serious harm 

At least once, everyone has forgotten to take a dose of medicine prescribed by a doctor or has stopped treatment early because their symptoms had disappeared.  It is common to hear people say, “I missed a pill, oh well” or “I already feel better, why should I keep taking this medicine?”. While this behavior may be inconsequential for common illnesses such as the flu, patients with chronic diseases that do not adhere to therapy put their whole course of treatment at risk. Each individual treatment, in fact, becomes less effective if it is not taken in a specific way and at a specific time. The more serious the disease, the more risks non-adherence to therapy brings about.
Several studies have been conducted on ‘adherence to therapy’ and the data that has been gathered is astonishing. Each year, in Europe, non-adherence to therapy causes approximately 200,000 deaths as well as expenses amounting to nearly 120 billion euros. Recently, Merck commissioned a survey to EngageMinds Hub Research Center (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan) which showed that in a sample of 1,000 patients with chronic diseases, more than half (56%) had considered abandoning therapy while 7 out of 10 (70%) patients did not thoroughly adhere to therapy. But what does adherence to therapy really mean? 

  • Taking medication as prescribed, according to the physician’s directions. 
  • Following a physician’s dietary recommendations
  • Undergoing exams and checkups in the periods indicated 

It may seem easy to follow three simple steps, but it actually becomes quite difficult in the daily life of a patient, especially a patient with a chronic disease.


Alliance and Adherence to Therapy

For people suffering from chronic diseases, even adhering to basic instructions can be difficult. Patients with Alzheimer’s or senile dementia, for example, cannot remember to take their medication without the help of a caregiver. Adherence to therapy can have other obstacles as well:

  • The need to take a large quantity of medication
  • The appearance of serious side effects
  • Lack of knowledge regarding treatment
  • Lack of trust and communication in the doctor-patient relationship

This is where the role of the doctor is essential. The doctor is not just there to prescribe different types of medicine and exams, but to establish dialogue with the patient, listen to their needs, understand their limits and finally identify a personalized therapy based on the specific situation at hand. It is also the doctor’s duty to clearly provide full knowledge about the disease and the correct therapy to follow, informing the patient of any eventual side effects that could eventually discourage the patient from continuing therapy.  Facilities like Domedica assist doctors in this fundamental role, offering a vast number of services specifically to improve adherence to therapy in patients with chronic diseases.  Patient Support Programs are based mainly on dialogue and trust, as well as the use of intelligent and personalized technological solutions. For the last twenty years, Domedica has maintained that giving the patient a key role in his or her course of treatment (taking into consideration all needs and limitations) is the first step in guaranteeing proper adherence to therapy, a vision that was ahead of its time considering the current trend towards precision medicine, which is based on listening to and analyzing each individual patient in order to identify very personalized treatments and therapies.

© Domedica s.r.l.

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