Visual Continuity Linked to Increased Patient Adherence

One of the chief healthcare problems we’re facing when it comes to disease treatment is poor patient adherence to medication. When patients are given a treatment regimen for an antibiotic or another drug, they’re generally expected to follow through exactly as their doctor instructs them to and, of course, to report side effects and make doctor-approved modifications based on that. However, they’re not meant to abandon their treatment before it runs its course simply because they forget to take their medication or for no other compelling reason.

Lack of patient adherence to a medication regimen contributes to many problems, including poorer health outcomes for a particular patient and the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These so-called “superbugs” pose a tremendous challenge to healthcare and are a serious danger to human life.

The healthcare industry is proposing a number of avenues through which pharma companies can contribute to solutions that foster an increase in patient adherence. One of these avenues – visual continuity – was recently addressed in a research study at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Researchers looked at generic drug use among heart attack patients to better understand why certain patients stick to their medication regimen while other patients abandon it. One of the factors they found that decreases patient adherence is a loss of visual continuity. If the drug gets altered in appearance, in particular its shape, patients as a group are less likely to keep taking it.

The reasoning is that the patients rely in part on these visual cues to tell them that they’re taking the right medication. They may not trust something that looks new, even though the box tells them it’s the same kind of medication; it’s possible that they fear a packaging error or that the drug they’ve depended on has changed to the point of no longer being reliable.

It’s amazing how something so simple can have a powerful effect on patient adherence. Of course, there are other factors that also contribute to a lack of patient adherence, including medication affordability and poor education on drug use. Pharma must continue to address all of these issues to ensure optimal patient adherence but often what appears to be only a superficial change to the drug’s appearance, even something that may seem like an insignificant detail, can have a powerful impact on adherence.

Looking for More Ways to Boost Patient Adherence?

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