Do patients' expectations influence their use of medications? Qualitative study

Lisa Dolovich, Kalpana Nair, Connie Sellors, Lynne Lohfeld, Annie Lee, Mitchell Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether patients' expectations influence how they take their medications by looking at the expectations patients have of their medications and the factors that affect these expectations.

DESIGN: Qualitative study using in-depth interviews and a grounded-theory approach.

SETTING: A large city in Ontario.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 18 community-dwelling adult patients taking medication for at least 6 months.

METHOD: Both purposive and convenience sampling techniques were used. The initial strategy comprised stratified, maximum variation, and typical case sampling. The research team developed a semistructured interview guide after a preliminary review of the literature. Individual, face-to-face, in-depth interviews were conducted and audiotaped. At the end of the interviews, basic demographic information was collected. Interviewers were debriefed following each interview and their comments on relevant contextual information, general impressions of the interview, and possible changes to the interview guide were audiotaped. Audiotapes of each interview, including the debriefing, were transcribed verbatim, cleaned, and given a unique identifying number. At least 2 team members participated in analyzing the data using an operational code book that was modified to accommodate emerging themes as analysis continued.

MAIN FINDINGS: Patients' expectations were more realistic than idealistic. Many participants acted on their expectations by changing their medication regimens on their own or by seeking additional information on their medications. Expectations were affected by patients' beliefs, past experiences with medications, relationships with their health care providers, other people's beliefs, and the cost of medication. Patients actively engaged in strategies to confirm or modify their expectations of their medications.

CONCLUSION: A range of factors (most notably past experiences with medications and relationships with health care providers) influenced patients' expectations of their medications. More comprehensive discussion between patients and their health care providers about these factors could affect whether medications are used optimally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-93
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Family Physician
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Decision Making
  • Drug Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Patient Compliance
  • Qualitative Research
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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