BackgroundAdherence and motivation are key factors for successful treatment of patients with chronic diseases, especially in long-term care processes like rehabilitation. However, only a few patients achieve good treatment adherence. The causes are manifold. Adherence-influencing factors vary depending on indications, therapies, and individuals. Positive and negative effects are rarely confirmed or even contradictory. An ontology seems to be convenient to represent existing knowledge in this domain and to make it available for information retrieval.MethodsFirst, a manual data extraction of current knowledge in the domain of treatment adherence in rehabilitation was conducted. Data was retrieved from various sources, including basic literature, scientific publications, and health behavior models. Second, all adherence and motivation factors identified were formalized according to the ontology development methodology METHONTOLOGY. This comprises the specification, conceptualization, formalization, and implementation of the ontology “Ontology for factors influencing therapy adherence to rehabilitation” (OnTARi) in Protégé. A taxonomy-oriented evaluation was conducted by two domain experts.ResultsOnTARi includes 281 classes implemented in ontology web language, ten object properties, 22 data properties, 1440 logical axioms, 244 individuals, and 1023 annotations. Six higher-level classes are differentiated: (1) Adherence, (2) AdherenceFactors, (3) AdherenceFactorCategory, (4) Rehabilitation, (5) RehabilitationForm, and (6) RehabilitationType. By means of the class AdherenceFactors 227 adherence factors, thereof 49 hard factors, are represented. Each factor involves a proper description, synonyms, possibly existing acronyms, and a German translation. OnTARi illustrates links between adherence factors through 160 influences-relations. Description logic queries implemented in Protégé allow multiple targeted requests, e.g., for the extraction of adherence factors in a specific rehabilitation area.ConclusionsWith OnTARi, a generic reference model was built to represent potential adherence and motivation factors and their interrelations in rehabilitation of patients with chronic diseases. In terms of information retrieval, this formalization can serve as a basis for implementation and adaptation of conventional rehabilitative measures, taking into account (patient-specific) adherence factors. OnTARi also enables the development of medical assistance systems to increase motivation and adherence in rehabilitation processes.