Variation in hemodialysis patient compliance according to demographic characteristics

Sherry I. Bame, Nancy Petersen, Nelda P. Wray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Patient noncompliance with treatment regime undermines the effectiveness of medical care, resulting in an unpredictable progression of the primary disease and a greater likelihood of complications. Hemodialysis patients are well suited for studying noncompliance because their treatment is prolonged and intensive, and medical regimens are clear cut and easily determined with objective measures. Moreover, noncompliant behavior by these patients not only endangers their life in the long run, but also results in negative effects within a day or two. Despite severe consequences, noncompliance with their medical regimen is the norm for dialysis patients rather than the exception. A large-scale study of chronic, outpatient hemodialysis patients (N = 1230 patients, response rate = 96%) treated in a variety of facility types (N = 29 facilities) was conducted to investigate prevalence and associated demographic characteristics of noncompliance with four treatment regimens-protein and potassium restrictions in the diet, medication regimen, and fluid restrictions. Few patients were noncompliant with diet regimens (9% with protein and 2% with potassium restrictions) but half were noncompliant with medication taking (50.2%) and fluid restrictions (49.5%). The prevalence of noncompliance with medication and fluid regimens was consistent with previous studies of dialysis patients but the prevalence of noncompliance with diet was much lower than that reported elsewhere. Prevalence of noncompliant patients varied between studies according to the cut-point used to establish compliance criteria, where more stringent cut-points inflated the percentage and more lenient cut-points reduced the percentage. Thus, there is a need to establish uniform criteria in order to test real differences in compliance between patient groups vs simply differences in measurement. In this study, younger patients were uniformly more likely to be noncompliant, otherwise demographic characteristics differed with each treatment regimen: more single patients were noncompliant with protein restrictions; more low income patients were noncompliant with medication regimen; and more low income, white, and male patients were noncompliant with fluid restrictions. Thus, in order for clinical interventions to be successful, they need to be tailored to differences in compliance behavior according to each specific treatment regimen. Demographic profiles can be an efficient way to identify subgroups of patients at high risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1043
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1993


  • compliance
  • end stage renal disease
  • hemodialysis
  • patient demographics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Development
  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Economics and Econometrics


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