May 31, 2018

The Cause and Effect of Patient Non-Adherence

By Accolade Marketing

What is Patient Non-Adherence?

Employers face a complex set of challenges in supporting and influencing their employees to make the best healthcare decisions. One such roadblock is patient non-adherence. This occurs when a person agrees to a doctor's prescribed course of action, but then doesn't follow through on the recommendations.

Often times, doctors experience a "black hole" once a patient leaves the office. The visibility and leverage the doctor had within the four walls of healthcare is gone. The ability to gain this level of insight and influence over a patient is key to affecting adherence.

Cause of Patient Non-Adherence

The average rate of patient non-adherence for chronic illness in the United States is 50%.1 The issues surrounding patient engagement are often addressable. Does the patient struggle with change to her routine? Will she have difficulty paying for treatment? Does she have concerns about potential side effects from the medications? All these life factors play a significant role in a person's ability to receive and comply with care. However, physicians only take contextual issues into account about 60% of the time. Physicians rarely have time to develop deep, trusting relationships that inspire patients to complete their prescribed treatments. In the end, the transactional nature of the doctor/patient relationship may perpetuate non-adherence.

Effect of Patient Non-Adherence

As reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, patient non-adherence to prescribed medication resulted in approximately 125,000 deaths, 10% of all hospitalizations, and cost the U.S. healthcare system between $100 and $289 billion annually. 2,3 According to the World Health Organization, improving adherence may have a greater impact on population health than improving specific medical treatments.4 The medical and financial consequences of non-adherence are vast. The ripple effect can lead to lengthier treatments, an increase in hospital visits and duration of stays, and ultimately higher medical costs.

Accolade's Solution to Patient Non-Adherence

This is where Accolade comes in. By providing resources, support, and compassion, we shine a light into the black hole that medical practitioners experience. This allows us to provide visibility and address barriers to healthcare. Accolade members connect with dedicated health assistants via phone, mobile application and web portal who can guide them in finding the right care at the right time. This level of access allows our members to ask questions and receive support at every step in their healthcare journey. Keeping our members educated and engaged in their health and wellness gives them a sense of control, resulting in better adherence and improved outcomes.

To learn more about our clinical model and personalized approach to population health, check out our free live webinar on 6/21/18: Managing Employee Populations with a Clinical and Personalized Approach.


    Costa, E. et al., (Sept. 2015) Interventional tools to improve medication adherence: review of literature, retrieved from
    Brody, J. (2017, April 17) The Cost of Not Taking Your Medicine, retrieved from
    Viswanathan M. et al., (Dec. 2012) Interventions to improve adherence to self-administered medications for chronic diseases in the United States: a systematic review, retrieved from
    The Canadian Medical Protective Association (Dec. 2013) What to do when patients do not follow the doctor's advice: Dealing with non-adherence, retrieved from