Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Patient and physician related factors of adherence to evidence based guidelines in diabetes mellitus type 2, cardiovascular disease and prevention: a cross sectional study

Johanna Fürthauer12*, Maria Flamm23 and Andreas Sönnichsen1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of General Practice and Family Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Alfred-Herrhausen-Str. 50, Witten, 58448, Germany

2 Institute of General Practice, Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine, Paracelsus Medical University, Strubergasse 21, Salzburg, 5020, Austria

3 Department of Evidence-based Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, Danube University, Karl Dorrek-Straße 30, Krems, 3500, Austria

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BMC Family Practice 2013, 14:47  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-14-47

Published: 4 April 2013



Patients do not always receive guideline-adherent therapy, yet little is known about the underlying causes on the patients’ side. We quantified non-guideline-adherent treatment of chronic diseases (diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation) in primary care and analysed the causes from the physician’s as well as the patient’s view.


With the intention to analyze the frequency and causes of non-guideline-adherent treatment of patients with chronic diseases, we drew a random sample of 124 general practitioners (GP) in Salzburg, Austria, of which 58 (46.8%) participated. In the participating GP surgeries, we consecutively recruited 501 patients with at least one of the target-diseases and checked the guideline conformity of treatment using 9 quality indicators. We then interviewed the patients as well as the general practitioners regarding factors affecting deviation from guideline recommendations.


Of the 501 patients, a total of 1224 quality indicators could be analysed. Non-adherence to guideline recommendations were present in 16.8% (n = 205, 95% CI 14.7 to 18.8%) of all quality indicators. In 61.5% of these cases (n = 126, 95% CI 53.0 to 70.0%) the treatment was wrongly judged as not recommended by the physicians. In 10.2% (n = 21, 95% CI 0 to 23.2%) physicians attributed non-adherence to patient’s non-compliance, and in 10.7% (n = 22, 95% CI 0 to 23.7%) to an adverse drug event, whereas only 5.4% (n = 11, 95% CI 0 to 18.7%) of non-adherence was related to an adverse drug event reported by the patients. Patients were unaware regarding the reason for non-adherent therapy in 64.4% (n = 132, 95% CI 56.2 to 72.6%) of the quality indicators. In 20.0% (n = 41, 95% CI 7.8 to 32.2%) patients regarded a drug as not needed.


Guideline adherence in chronic care was relatively good in our study sample, but still leaving room for improvement. Physicians’ lack of knowledge and patients’ lack of awareness account for about 70% of non-adherence, indicating the necessity to improve physician education, and patient involvement. In about 30% of the quality indicators not fulfilled, non-adherence is due to other reasons like adverse drug events or patients not willing to take a recommended drug.

Non-adherence; Cardiovascular disease; Prevention; Patient adherence; Guideline adherence