guideline adherence; medication adherence; patient compliance; patient acceptance of health care; treatment adherence and compliance


Humane Education | Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences


Adherence and compliance are 2 words that are used interchangeably by medical professionals. When we come across a patient who is not taking their medication as advised, we say the patient is non-compliant when the truth is that the patient is non-adherent. Although the terms are used as if they mean the same thing, the 2 words are different in so many ways. In order to understand the difference, it is important to understand the true meaning of these words. According to the literature, “adherence is an active choice of patients to follow through with the prescribed treatment while taking responsibility for their own well-being while compliance is a passive behavior in which a patient is following a list of instructions from the doctor.” Adherence is a more positive, proactive behavior, which results in a lifestyle change by the patient, and they must then follow a daily regimen such as taking his or her medications every day or doing exercise daily. Compliance is a behavior exhibited by a patient who is simply “doing as (he or she is) told” or following instructions given by the treating doctor.