Pharmacy World and Science

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 300–304 | Cite as

Can Human Error Theory Explain Non-adherence?

  • Nick BarberEmail author
  • A. Safdar
  • Bryoney D. Franklin
Research Article


Objective: To apply human error theory to explain non-adherence and examine how well it fits.

Method: Patients who were taking chronic medication were telephoned and asked whether they had been adhering to their medicine, and if not the reasons were explored and analysed according to a human error theory.

Results: Of 105 patients, 87 were contacted by telephone and they took part in the study. Forty-two recalled being non-adherent, 17 of them in the last 7days; 11 of the 42 were intentionally non-adherent. The errors could be described by human error theory, and it explained unintentional non-adherence well, however, the application of ‘rules’ was difficult when considering mistakes. The consideration of error producing conditions and latent failures also revealed useful contributing factors.

Conclusion. Human error theory offers a new and valuable way of understanding non-adherence, and could inform interventions. However, the theory needs further development to explain intentional non-adherence.

Key words

Adherence Human error theory Intentional non-adherence Medicines Unintentional non-adherence United Kingdom 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Practice and PolicyThe School of PharmacyLondonUK

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