One of the most important factors in the physician / patient relationship is honesty. Doctors expect their patients to be truthful so they can provide appropriate care, but a 2018 study has revealed that as many as 80% of all patients lie or withhold information from their providers.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), identified many reasons for patients not fully disclosing information to their doctors. The most cited reason was that they did not want to be judged or lectured about their behaviors. This was followed by the lack of desire to hear how bad the behavior was for their health, as well as simply being embarrassed about their health choices. Other responses included not wanting information in their medical record, not wanting to take up their doctor’s time, and wanting their healthcare provider to like them.
The failure to provide accurate information however is not always the patient’s fault as some reasons relate to poor physician communication. Several patients revealed that they do not always fully understand their doctor’s questions. Another reason why some patients admitted to not being truthful was to avoid disagreeing with their provider about their recommended treatment plan.
The topics that patients most commonly fail to be 100% honest with their doctor about include their diet, lack of exercise, sexual activity, medication management, and adherence to their treatment plan. The study revealed that some of the patients who were most dishonest to their provider were those in poor health.
This can be a potentially serious problem as patients withholding information from their doctors can prevent them from receiving the right care and can be dangerous to their overall health. According to researchers from this study, “Patients who aren’t forthright with their health information face unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening side effects from regimens their doctors give them.”
While much of the responsibility to be more forthcoming lies with the patient, those in the healthcare industry acknowledge that they can also help the situation. Knowing that there is a high-likelihood that patients might avoid disclosing important information, physicians need to make every attempt to be less judgmental and make every attempt to put their patients at ease.
By building a trusting and honest relationship, doctors and patients can work together so that the best care is provided.
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