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11-23-2015 | Psychosocial care | Article

Type 2 diabetes patients’ and providers’ differing perspectives on medication nonadherence: a qualitative meta-synthesis

BMC Health Services Research

Authors: Francesca Brundisini, Meredith Vanstone, Danielle Hulan, Deirdre DeJean, Mita Giacomini

Publisher: BioMed Central



Poor adherence to medication regimens increases adverse outcomes for patients with Type 2 diabetes. Improving medication adherence is a growing priority for clinicians and health care systems. We examine the differences between patient and provider understandings of barriers to medication adherence for Type 2 diabetes patients.


We searched systematically for empirical qualitative studies on the topic of barriers to medication adherence among Type 2 diabetes patients published between 2002–2013; 86 empirical qualitative studies qualified for inclusion. Following qualitative meta-synthesis methods, we coded and analyzed thematically the findings from studies, integrating and comparing findings across studies to yield a synthetic interpretation and new insights from this body of research.


We identify 7 categories of barriers: (1) emotional experiences as positive and negative motivators to adherence, (2) intentional non-compliance, (3) patient-provider relationship and communication, (4) information and knowledge, (5) medication administration, (6) social and cultural beliefs, and (7) financial issues. Patients and providers express different understandings of what patients require to improve adherence. Health beliefs, life context and lay understandings all inform patients’ accounts. They describe barriers in terms of difficulties adapting medication regimens to their lifestyles and daily routines. In contrast, providers' understandings of patients poor medication adherence behaviors focus on patients’ presumed needs for more information about the physiological and biomedical aspect of diabetes.


This study highlights key discrepancies between patients’ and providers’ understandings of barriers to medication adherence. These misunderstandings span the many cultural and care contexts represented by 86 qualitative studies. Counseling and interventions aimed at improving medication adherence among Type 2 diabetes might become more effective through better integration of the patient’s perspective and values concerning adherence difficulties and solutions.

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