Medical Nonadherence

A Behavior Analysis
  • Carl D. Cheney
Part of the Applied Clinical Psychology book series (NSSB)


Imagine a 53-year-old man, Roy, who has a history of minor heart problems. He suffers from hypertension and his doctor has prescribed medication to lower his blood pressure. His doctor also suggests he schedule a medical checkup every three months. Roy faithfully takes his medication for a few weeks precisely on the prescribed daily schedule. As times goes by, however, he realizes that he does not feel any differently now than he did before, and he can also see that the medication is costing more than he cares to pay. So, Roy conveniently “forgets” to take his pills, and gradually the entire routine stops. Occasionally he experiences a period of mild chest discomfort but passes it off as indigestion. After one such episode, Roy’s wife makes him go to the hospital. The nurse in the emergency room takes his blood pressure and determines that he is supposed to be, but is not, taking his medication. Roy tells her that he sometimes forgets to take it but promises to do better in the future. The nurse gives him a few warnings and sends him home. Every 3 months, Roy’s wife reminds him to go to his scheduled appointment for a checkup. He takes his medication regularly for a week before the checkup, and the doctor, upon examining him, considers him to be doing just fine and tells him to come back again in 3 months.


Medical Adherence Behavioral Medicine Avoidance Response Aversive Stimulus Warning Stimulus 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl D. Cheney
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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