Why don't our patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease listen to us? the enigma of nonadherence Academic Article uri icon


  • Nonadherence--not taking pharmacologic or nonpharmacologic treatments according to agreed recommendations from a health care provider--is common in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nonadherence in taking maintenance medications, smoking cessation, maintaining regular physical activity and exercise, starting and staying in pulmonary rehabilitation and continuing on with the postrehabilitation exercise/activity prescription, and successfully following self-management directions results in adverse outcomes across multiple areas. These include a faster decline in airway function, higher symptom burden, impaired health status, and increased health care use and mortality risk. Although nonadherence can also occur in health care providers (not following established treatment guidelines), this perspective focuses on patient nonadherence. Factors such as social/economic, health system, therapy-related, patient-related, and condition-related factors all impact this problem. To improve patient adherence, we need to consider these factors in the context of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and implement strategies directly targeting underlying issues. Strategies may include customizing and simplifying learning and intervention regimes, identifying barriers to adherence and addressing them, ensuring patient support structures are in place, and improving self-efficacy. Future directions should focus on research and development in educational design; use of technology to assist education; psychological intervention strategies to support learning, motivation, self-efficacy and behavior change; and ways to improve healthcare providers' engagement with patients.

publication date

  • 2016