Research

Many patients lie to their doctors, research finds

According to a new study, most of the patients are not truthful with their healthcare provider. Going to a physician can be so stressful that you may feel put on the spot when you get enquired a question. Sometimes, people might even tell a white lie to their doctors to try and please them.

A good clinician-patient interaction is essential for the treatment of any disorder. When a doctor asks health-related questions, they usually expect the truth. In any case, honesty is the best policy. But, if you have not explained the truth to your doctor, you may not be alone.

A recent study indicates that 90 percent of patients say that they have not stated the truth to their doctors or have withdrawn information from them.

The study was published in the JAMA Network Open journal by scientists at University of Utah Health and Middlesex Community College, Connecticut, in conjunction with authors from the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and the University of Iowa.

They discovered that the common reason for withholding info from clinicians is patients not wanting to feel judged.

“While the idea that patients may not share info with doctors is possibly expected. We were astonished at how common it seems to be for patients to withhold information,” Brian Zikmund-Fisher said in a released statement. He is a co-author of the study, Ph.D., research associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan.

What the study found

Researchers observed outcomes from over 4,500 responses across the country through two different surveys. One survey took the responses from 2,011 participants with an average age of 61. And the other online survey was given to 2,499 participants averaging 36 years old.

In both groups, those who were younger, female, or self-reported having poor health were more likely to respond that they failed to provide truthful answers.

With effort from health service scientists, physicians, psychologists, as well as group meetings and pilot testing, the surveys were developed to contain seven queries. These queries covered areas that survey participants may not have been candid about. Like whether they had been adhering to any treatment.

If the answer for any of the seven questions was not truthful, then participants were asked to remember why they made such a choice.

“There are some issues where patients tend to not tell you what’s going on. I think this is true in situations when a patient is not familiar with you that well” says Dr. Barbara Keber. He is a chair of family medicine at Northwell Health’s Glen Cove Hospital in Glen Cove, New York.

Main outcomes

Hence, the main reasons for failure to release info were maximum for things involving physician communication. It included discrepancy with a doctor’s recommendations and not accepting their medical instructions. Also, this is followed by nondisclosure of health behaviors, like eating an unhealthy food.

Research participants did not disclose data with their doctors. The reason behind this was that they didn’t want to be judged about their behavior. That was basically followed by the lack of desire to receive how bad the deeds was about their health, as well as merely being ashamed of their choices.

Other responses involved not wanting any kind of information in their medical record. And not wanting to take up the time from a healthcare provider, and wanting their healthcare provider to like them. Lying about exercise habits and food intake were pretty common stories among participants.

Still, some people confessed that they didn’t speak out if they disagreed with a doctor’s advice. Some of them also admitted that they denied telling a clinician if they didn’t understand some medical directions. Scientists said they have an intuition why these people felt so inclined to reserve information from people who were actually trying to comfort them.

“Most of the people want their physician to think greatly of them,” said Angela Fagerlin in a statement. She is a Ph.D., senior research author and professor and chair of population health sciences at the University of Utah Health. “They are concerned about being categorized as somebody who doesn’t make right decisions,” she said.

The risks of keeping information from your doctor

People withholding information about their health can make it tough for doctors to give accurate care. And it can be risky to the patients’ health. Patients who aren’t direct about their health information face hostile and sometimes deadly side effects from treatments their doctors provide them.

“Healthcare specialists’ require accurate information about patient behaviors and beliefs if they want to best guide their patients,” said Zikmund-Fisher.

Zikmund-Fisher acknowledged busy doctors can do things to try to make their patients comfortable and open with them. “Possibly by recognizing how common it is for patients to reserve information, doctors can make it easier for patients to share their anxieties and admit their less-than-ideal behaviors,” Zikmund-Fisher said.

“Such discussions will only occur if physicians address the fears of patients that they will be lectured or judged.” Though the data presented is surprising, this research has an interesting drawback: Survey members may have withdrawn information regarding withholding information. This shows the statistics could be even complex.

Keber showed how vital it was for clinicians to efficiently communicate with their patients. “It all comes to the communication mechanism, particularly in the patient that you do not know,” says Keber.

“Putting the patient at comfort is important. The doctor must open a line of communication to involve the patient. And the patient will engage back with you in a conversation. This will let them open up about their health distresses.”

The bottom line

A new research discovers that between 60 to 80 percent of patients are not helpful and open. They even lie to their physicians.

Misrepresentation generally arises due to the disagreement with the doctor’s recommendations or by misunderstanding their commendations. The reason that patients gave was that they did not want to feel judged. More than half of the patients felt embarrassed or humiliated regarding their health choices.

Hence, the research proposes that considering the problem more in-depth could point toward methods to fix it. Person-to-person discussions could also help recognize other issues which affect clinician-patient interactions.

Sophie Abram

Sophie Abram is an author at Top Health Journal. She has a master’s degree in Biochemistry. Evidence-based nutrition is her passion and she loves to devote her career to informing the general public about it. She has extensive experience as a researcher and her research focus is within food reformulation, improving food supply and food environments. Her research examines how nutrition, dietary supplements, and exercise affects human body composition. Twitter- @abram_sophie

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