Nome, AK-One of the most challenging issues facing medical professionals caring for adolescent patients with chronic illness is the high incidence of noncompliance with treatment regimens. Though data is lacking, available studies suggest that as many as 50% of teenagers do not follow doctor's orders when it comes taking their medications. But as awareness of the problem has increased over the years, more experts have begun working on ways to combat this potentially dangerous practice.
"A number of strategies to improve compliance among teens were devised by our team and have been studied for effectiveness over the last decade," Dickey Mopper MD, a researcher for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Adolescent Mind Research Institute explained. "The study, which involves the initiation of a randomly assigned compliance improvement program at age 13-years, is the first of its kind."
At first the team's methods, which include texting reminders, point-reward systems, peer pressure from more popular older patients, threatening corporal punishment and ankle bracelets that administer an incapacitating electric shock, failed miserably. It wasn't until they took into account the turbulent nature of the adolescent mind that they began to first see the inklings of success. And though the waters our slightly less murky, discovery of any definitive solutions is still likely years away.
Mopper and his team began to see a pattern emerge as the program followed the teenage subjects. The researchers saw a slow but steady improvement in one subset of patients and they became increasingly confident that the first step to understanding poor compliance had finally been revealed. "Regardless of the assigned method, a positive correlation between time and compliance emerged, particularly once subjects were enrolled for greater than 5 years. The next step is to now go and try to figure out what makes this subset of subjects respond to compliance improvement programs while newer subjects do not."