Using communication skills to improve adherence in children with chronic disease: the adherence equation

Paediatr Respir Rev. 2013 Dec;14(4):219-23. doi: 10.1016/j.prrv.2013.01.003. Epub 2013 Feb 20.


Nonadherence to maintenance medication is common in paediatric chronic conditions. Despite the common belief that nonadherence is therapy-resistant, and the apparent lack of evidence for successful interventions to improve adherence, there is, in fact, a considerable body of evidence suggesting that adherence can be improved by applying specific communicative consultation skills. These can be summarized as the adherence equation: adherence=follow-up+dialogue+barriers and beliefs+empathy and education => concordance. Close follow-up of children with a chronic condition is needed to establish a therapeutic partnership with the family. Teaching self management skills is not a unidirectional process of providing information, but requires a constructive and collaborative dialogue between the medical team and the family. Identifying barriers to adherence can be achieved in a non-confrontational manner, by showing a genuine interest what the patient's views and preferences are. In particular, parental illness perceptions and medication beliefs should be identified, because they are strong drivers of nonadherence. Through empathic evidence-based education, such perceptions and beliefs can be modified. By applying these strategies, concordance between the child's family and the medical team can be achieved, resulting in optimal adherence to the jointly created treatment plan.

Keywords: Adherence; Barriers to adherence; Dialogue; Education; Empathy; Illness perceptions; Medication beliefs; Partnership; Self management; follow-up.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Communication*
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence*
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Referral and Consultation / standards*