There is a large gap between best care, defined as the optimal use of proven efficacious therapies in whole populations at risk from any disease, and usual care, the actual level of efficacious care being provided (Montague et al. 1997). This gap in patient care has four main causes: diseases may not be diagnosed, efficacious therapies may not be prescribed, access to therapy may be restricted or patients may not adhere to prescriptions.
Irrespective of causation, the ultimate result of care gaps is the same - less than optimal clinical outcomes and associated lost opportunities for improved quality of life and productivity. Systematic approaches to improving prescribing practices are increasing, and there is much debate around improving patients' access to care. Poor diagnosis is judged to be relatively uncommon, leaving decayed adherence as the major under-addressed cause of care gaps and a major opportunity for improvement.
This paper reviews the scope and causation of sub-optimal adherence, evaluates improvement strategies and explores a best-practice benchmark.
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