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Standardizing terminology and definitions of medication adherence and persistence in research employing electronic databases

OBJECTIVE: To propose a unifying set of definitions for prescription adherence research utilizing electronic health record prescribing databases, prescription dispensing databases, and pharmacy claims databases and to provide a conceptual framework to operationalize these definitions consistently across studies. METHODS: We reviewed recent literature to identify definitions in electronic database studies of prescription-filling patterns for chronic oral medications. We then develop a conceptual model and propose standardized terminology and definitions to describe prescription-filling behavior from electronic databases. RESULTS: The conceptual model we propose defines 2 separate constructs: medication adherence and persistence. We define primary and secondary adherence as distinct subtypes of adherence. Metrics for estimating secondary adherence are discussed and critiqued, including a newer metric (New Prescription Medication Gap measure) that enables estimation of both primary and secondary adherence. DISCUSSION: Terminology currently used in prescription adherence research employing electronic databases lacks consistency. We propose a clear, consistent, broadly applicable conceptual model and terminology for such studies. The model and definitions facilitate research utilizing electronic medication prescribing, dispensing, and/or claims databases and encompasses the entire continuum of prescription-filling behavior. CONCLUSION: Employing conceptually clear and consistent terminology to define medication adherence and persistence will facilitate future comparative effectiveness research and meta-analytic studies that utilize electronic prescription and dispensing records.

Authors: Raebel MA; Schmittdiel J; Karter AJ; Konieczny JL; Steiner JF

Med Care. 2013 Aug;51(8 Suppl 3):S11-21.

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