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The effect of visual interventions on illness beliefs and medication adherence for chronic conditions: A scoping review of the literature and mapping to behaviour change techniques (BCTs)

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-11-30, 14:47 authored by Sarah Brown, D. McRae, E. Sheils, Barry McDonnell, I. Khan, Delyth JamesDelyth James


Maintaining health with chronic conditions often involves taking multiple medications; however, approximately 50% of patients with chronic conditions are non-adherent to medication. Patients’ illness beliefs inform health behaviour, including medication-taking. Research has shown that visuals accompanying health information increased patient comprehension and the accuracy of illness perceptions. To date, the influence of visuals on illness beliefs and medication adherence has not been comprehensively reviewed.


The review aimed to collate available literature on visualisation interventions for illness beliefs and medication adherence in chronic conditions and identify key intervention characteristics.


A scoping review was conducted according to recommended guidelines and the PRISMA-ScR statement. Searches used keywords relating to ‘illness’, ‘visual’, ‘adherence’, ‘illness perception’, ‘intervention’, and ‘medication’. Six databases were searched from inception to 2019; reference-list searching provided additional articles. Articles were included if the study population had a chronic health condition, the intervention included a visual element, had a measure of illness beliefs or medication adherence. Data regarding intervention characteristics and outcomes were extracted. Behaviour change techniques (BCTs) were identified to provide further insight into intervention characteristics.


Initially, 18,012 articles were identified. Screening led to 293 full-text articles, ultimately resulting in 45 studies for final analysis. Forty-four were quantitative studies, 1 was qualitative. Studies were grouped into those using visuals to conceptualise a condition, medication reminders and educational interventions. Almost two-thirds of visual interventions were effective post-intervention, 3 sustained post-1-year, although many studies only assessed impact immediately post-intervention. BCTs from ‘Natural consequences’, ‘Social support and ‘Feedback and monitoring’ categories were prevalent in effective interventions for both outcomes, particularly the ‘Salience of consequences’ BCT.


This comprehensive scoping review found that visual interventions can positively influence illness beliefs and medication adherence. These findings highlight the need to further evaluate the impact and sustainability of visual interventions.


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Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy



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  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)


Brown, S.L., McRae, D., Sheils, E., McDonnell, B.J., Khan, I. and James, D.H. (2021) 'The effect of visual interventions on illness beliefs and medication adherence for chronic conditions: A scoping review of the literature and mapping to behaviour change techniques (BCTs)', Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. DOI: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2021.11.006

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Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences

Cardiff Met Authors

Sarah Brown Barry McDonnell I. Khan Delyth James

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group

  • Public Health and Wellbeing
  • Applied Psychology and Behaviour Change

Copyright Holder

  • © The Publisher


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