Patient Education and Adherence to Aerosol Therapy

Respir Care. 2015 Jun;60(6):941-55; discussion 955-7. doi: 10.4187/respcare.03854.


Nonadherence to prescribed medications results in disease instability and poor clinical control, with increases in hospital admissions, emergency room visits, school/work absenteeism, morbidity, and mortality. Poor patient adherence to therapy can be due to lack of cognition, competence, or contrivance. Patients who have not been trained or fail to understand use of drug and device combinations (cognition) often do not have the ability to use an aerosol device correctly (competence). Many patients have the competence to use the device correctly and know why they should use the device in the way they were taught; however, they still contrive to use it in an ineffective and suboptimal manner that reduces its efficiency and effectiveness. Ensuring effective aerosol therapy and optimizing its role in disease management involve not only delivery of aerosolized medications to the lungs, but also understanding why, when, and how to use the medications, competence to use the device, motivation to adhere to therapy, and not contriving to use the device in a way that will prevent effective drug delivery. This paper explains some of the problems with patient education and adherence to aerosol therapy and suggests strategies to evaluate, monitor, and improve patient adherence effectively in primary care. Factors affecting patient adherence to prescribed medications, effective educational interventions, and strategies to promote patient adherence to aerosol therapy are also discussed.

Keywords: aerosol therapy; dry powder inhalers; inhaled medications; metered-dose inhalers; nebulizers; patient adherence; patient education.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Aerosols / administration & dosage
  • Cognition
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Mental Competency
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers*
  • Patient Compliance / psychology*
  • Patient Education as Topic


  • Aerosols