Difference Between Adherence and Compliance


Main Difference

The main difference between Adherence and Compliance is that Adherence is an action that is required by a rule, whereas Compliance is the process of doing what is ordered.

Adherence vs. Compliance

Adherence is an act of steady or faithful attachment, whereas compliance is an act of conformity in fulfilling official requirements. Adherence is a noun form of the verb adheres. On the flip side, compliance is a noun form of the verb comply.

Adherence is usually followed by the preposition to, whereas compliance is usually followed by the preposition with. Adherence is an active form, whereas compliance is the passive form. Adherence is the act of doing that is compulsory to be followed by a rule or a belief. On the flip side, compliance is an act of doing what you have been asked or ordered to do.


In medical terms, Adherence is defined as an act of satisfying new medicaments or refilling medicaments on time. On the contrary, compliance is an act of taking medicines as scheduled or taking medicines as prescribed. Adherence refers to a voluntary action under our conscious control, whereas compliance refers to an involuntary action that is not under our conscious control.

Adherence refers to positive connotation, while compliance refers to a negative connotation. Adherence depicts active behavior pf patients, adhering to the proper practicing of medicines. On the flip side, compliance depicts the passive behavior of the patient in following the instructions of a medical health professional.

Adherence empowers the condition of the patient by regularly following the rules and regulations as advised. Conversely, compliance is just a paternalistic and condescending attitude towards medicine. Adherence is acting upon the instruction whole-heartedly, whereas compliance is acting upon the instruction forcefully.


Comparison Chart

An act of doing according to rules and beliefs is called adherence.An act of doing according to command and orders is called compliance.
Alternative Meaning
Steady or faithful attachment to the actConformity in accomplishing official requirements
Rules Followed
The noun form of the verb adheres.The noun form of the verb comply.
Followed by the preposition toFollowed by the preposition with
One’s own willComplying with someone else’s demands or requests
Medical Meaning
It is an act of filling new prescriptions or refilling prescriptions on time whole-heartedly.It is an act of taking medications as prescribed on time forcefully.

What is Adherence?

Adherence means that a patient is striving himself by adhering to the proper dosage as prescribed. It implies that a patient is empowered to take his matter of health in his own hands for better consequences. Adherence is a positive terminology that gives better results as compared to compliance.

Adherence is the extent to which a patient’s behavior agrees with the clinical choices that were decided mutually by the consent of both patient and the provider. Adherence encompasses freedom of choice to the patient and does not blame the patient for non-adherence or compliance. The choice of using adherence instead of compliance represents an essential shift toward empowering the patient’s health.

Risks of Neglecting Adherence

  • Incorrect administration technique
  • Self-dosage adjustment
  • Delayed timing of dosing
  • Dose omission
  • Inappropriate discontinuation of medications
  • Unnecessary disease progression
  • Condensed practical abilities and quality of life
  • Additional medical costs and regular physician visits
  • Unnecessary medication changes

To Improve Adherence

  • Discuss the patient’s ability to pay for medications
  • Commend universal or generic medications
  • Be responsible for information about prescription support curriculums
  • Deliver information about online pharmacies that can help with concerns access in case of emergency.

Methods of Measuring Adherence

  • Direct Method: It includes directly observed therapy, which means monitoring of metabolite level in blood or urine sample. It can be performed accurately but has limited use due to the impracticality of trackers and expensive costs.
  • Indirect Method: These are preferred over direct methods because they are convenient and allow the analysis of patient and population-based adherence patterns.

What is Compliance?

Compliance is defined as an act, which is fulfilled by someone else’s commands or orders, and the person himself is not willing to do so. In medical terms, compliance is described as the fact that a patient follows the advice of the doctor condescendingly. If a patient follows the rules prescribed for his better health forcefully, then it is called compliance.

Compliance is the noun form of a verb comply. The act or process of doing something with a wish or command is referred to as compliance. It has a negative connotation. Compliance is described as a passive action, which means that you are not ready to do something or to act in a certain way voluntarily.

The noun compliance, as well as the verb comply, is followed by the preposition with. It refers to the conventionality in doing prescribed acts.

To Improve Compliance

  • Ask the patient if he is taking his medication regularly on schedule and as prescribed.
  • Review possible side-effects when changing the medication and discuss with the patient what he should do and what should not be done when he experiences the side-effects.
  • Highlight the importance of following the prescription and possible risks of aberration.
  • Recommend the patient to use tools like pill calendar, pill case, digital dispenser, and mobile app that help him stay connected to his schedule.
  • Provide patients with information about whom to contact for concerns about their medication program.
  • Tell solutions to the problems a patient asks and make him feel comfortable and satisfied.

Key Differences

  1. Adherence is an act of doing something or acting upon the prescriptions whole-heartedly with your own will. On the other hand, compliance is an act of fulfilling the wish or command of others.
  2. Adherence brings positive results, whereas compliance brings negative results.
  3. Adherence refers to remaining faithful and steady. On the flip side, compliance refers to conforming to fulfilling your official requirements.
  4. Adherence is a noun form of the verb adheres. Conversely, compliance is the noun form of the verb comply.
  5. Adherence is usually followed by the preposition “to.” On the other hand, compliance is usually followed by the preposition “with.”
  6. Adherence is an active action, whereas compliance is a passive action.
  7. Adherence refers to voluntarily doing the act or following the prescriptions. On the flip side, compliance is following the commands forcefully.
  8. Adherence has more advantages. Conversely, compliance has fewer advantages.
  9. Adherence has a positive connotation. On the flip side, compliance has a negative connotation.


Following the rules and believes by remaining faithful and steady is called adherence, whereas following the commands and orders with conformity in accomplishing authorized necessities is called compliance.

Janet White

Janet White is a writer and blogger for Difference Wiki since 2015. She has a master's degree in science and medical journalism from Boston University. Apart from work, she enjoys exercising, reading, and spending time with her friends and family. Connect with her on Twitter @Janet__White