Do you lie to your doctor?

Study says most patients do

Don Ames
December 10, 2018 - 7:20 am

Up to 80 percent of Americans lie to their doctors, according to a new study at the University of Utah.

The most common thing people don't tell their doctor is that they don't agree with the physician's recommended course of treatment.

"They may or may not have had agreement about what the best plan might be or whether or not this is something that really needs to change," says Dr. Benjamin Springgate, Chief of Community and Population Medicine with LSU Health

He says this is not healthy, because people who disagree with their doctor might not follow through on taking prescribed medications or receiving recommended follow-up tests. 

Second most often, people wouldn't admit that they didn't fully understand the instructions a provider gave them. That happened with 32 percent of younger patients and 24 percent of older patients.

The researchers also asked why patients didn't tell the whole story, and the No. 1 reason was that they didn't want the doctor to give them a hard time about their behavior. Often, fear or shame are at the root of the miscommunication.

"There are times that patients are embarrassed by describing certain behaviors to their doctor, and so they may underplay or neglect to mention them in the context of an interview," says Springgate. "They feel like they're going to be judged or they feel like this is something that is not going to contribute to a positive conversation with their doctor."

"People are worried about things like drinking or smoking or things like their diet or their exercise patterns...whether or not they're taking their medications faithfully. And so, rather than have a difficult conversation, they either deny it or omit something from the conversation."  

But, keeping any health-related information secret can lead to some very dire consequences. 

"There's a risk to the person's health if they and their doctor are not able to come to some type of positive relationship in which they can communicate clearly and freely about what's happening in the patient's life." 

"It's important for doctor and patients to try to approach each other as allies in the conversations, rather than potential adversaries."

He says people need to trust their doctor and simply tell the truth as if their life depended on it. And in many cases, it does.

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