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What is Adherence Engineering?

Frank Drews, MS, PhD, professor of cognitive and neural sciences at the University of Utah, Department of Psychology, explains adherence engineering.

Frank Drews, MS, PhD, professor of cognitive and neural sciences at the University of Utah, Department of Psychology, explains adherence engineering.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“Adherence engineering is a psychologically based approach to guide and improve adherence of practitioners to certain procedures. One of the biggest challenges when we are dealing with procedures is that people are often not adhering to the protocol and one of the problems is that often [environmental] factors that can influence behavior are such that they actually ‘dis-incentivize’ adherence to protocol; they make it [more difficult].

If people have to use high levels of effort, they are less likely to adhere to protocol. If you can minimize the effort in executing a protocol, you can, for example, increase the adherence. We know that cognitive effort is an important variable, so [we need] to make adherence to protocol cognitively effort[less]. [Furthermore], it requires lots of planning, [which] is another [reason] for people not adhering [to protocols]. By reducing the cognitive effort of executing a protocol, you can actually support people doing this. One way of implementing some of the principles that are going with adherence engineering is to develop kits—equipment-based kits that help people perform a procedure by guiding them with brief descriptions of each of those steps of the procedure, and support memory by providing retrieval cues as well.

People see, for example, an icon or a keyword and as a consequence they actually remember what step they have to perform rather than having them perform this step out of pure retrieval from memory which we know is pretty fallible and, as a consequence, will lead to problems with adherence.”