Pharmaceuticals Physician Compensation Public Health Specialists

Can physicians affect medication adherence?

According to a recent study by Koulayev, Simeonova, and Skipper (2016) using data from Denmark, the answer is ‘yes’.

Non-compliance with medication therapy remains an unsolved and expensive problem for healthcare systems around the world, yet we know little about the factors that affect a patient’s decision to follow treatment recommendations. In particular, there is little evidence on the extent to which doctors can influence patient adherence behavior. This study uses a unique panel dataset comprising all prescription drug users, physicians, and all prescription drug sales in Denmark over 7 years to analyze the contributions of doctor-specific, patient-specific, and drug-specific factors to the adherence decision. We find that physicians exert substantial influence on patient compliance. Further, the quality of the match between a doctor and a patient accounts for a substantial portion of the variation in adherence outcomes. This suggests that the sorting of patients across doctors is an important mechanism that affects patient adherence beyond the effects of individual patient-specific and physician-specific factors.

It would be interesting to see if the results would be the same if applied to U.S. patients and physicians.


  • Koulayev, S., Simeonova, E., and Skipper, N. (2016) Can Physicians Affect Patient Adherence With Medication?. Health Econ., doi: 10.1002/hec.3357.

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