Medication Instructions That Stick (but Don’t Adhere)

Illustration of medical instructions that stick

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about medication adherence. It’s understandable, of course. Doctors who prescribe medicine want patients to take it as directed. Patients who are prescribed medicine want to feel better.

But following prescriptions, especially multiple daily prescriptions, is hard. So let’s not make it worse by using overly complex language to talk about it.

Saying “medication adherence” is okay when talking to your colleagues… if you must. But when you’re talking to or writing for patients, throw it out the window! There are many better and clearer options. For example:

  • It’s important to follow the directions for taking your medicine.
  • Follow all instructions for your medicine.
  • Learn about your medicine and take it correctly.
  • Take your medicine as prescribed.
  • Take your medicine as directed.

Thus, we challenge you never to write something like: Medication adherence is an important part of being actively involved in your health care.

Don’t do it! The message might not stick. Instead, try one of our friendly, plain language alternatives. Or write your own. We know you can.

The bottom line: Stick to plain language and skip “medication adherence.”


Browse recent posts

Do you heart health literacy? We sure do! Sign up to get practical health literacy tips and tricks — delivered to your inbox every week.