23 September 2021

Why people are bad at taking meds and how you can help

Management Podcast

It’s as complex and difficult as losing weight but Dr Ayano Kelly is getting to the bottom of adherence.

Despite the constant funding push for new drug research, 50% of patients miss out on the full effect of their current drugs by not taking medications as directed.

Dr Ayano Kelly is a rheumatologist at Liverpool Hospital in Sydney and a PhD candidate at Australian National University. She spoke to the Rheumatology Republic’s In conversation podcast about the specific actions a doctor can take to help a patient ramp up adherence and why changing human behaviour is such a wicked problem.

There are many complex factors that lead to human behaviour, she says, and there are so many things that go into adherence. It’s so relevant to everything that we do. And it’s not all about the patient – it’s about the interaction with their doctor, it’s the system, it’s whether the medications themselves are effective.

Dr Kelly says there’s a common misunderstanding that it’s due to a lack of education or just forgetfulness. Indeed, there are more than four hundred reasons, and some studies found more than seven hundred reasons, why people don’t take their medications as prescribed. And for an individual patient it’s not just one reason, it can be multiple reasons. And those reasons can also change with time.

One of the unexpected reasons she came across was with a patient whose pet rabbit was sick. He was very worried about the rabbit and couldn’t sleep. That was what he was focused on. It’s not one of the things you would normally think of, she says, but it was important for that person at that time. It’s very individual, and if you have a pet yourself you probably understand.