Have you ever told a fib to your physician? Perhaps a little white lie? Have you been less than honest about your social habits? Or, you past medical history? Did you know this could endanger your health . . . and maybe even your life?
The Los Angeles Times reports that inaccurate information from you to your doctor “can lead to misinterpreted symptoms, overlooked warning signs, flawed diagnoses and treatments – potentially endangering” your “health, even life.”
And, although “doctors know that . . . at least some of their patients” lie, in doing so, these patients are “pretty much asking for trouble,” according to doctors and patient advocates.
Patients may lie, however, “in order to keep something out of their medical records or out of the hands of their insurance companies.” If a patient refuses “to release the records . . . the company can refuse to sell them a policy or refuse to pay claims.”
But, the insurer can also “retroactively cancel the policy” if they find “something in a patient’s records that contradicts something the patient said when purchasing the policy,” Jerry Flanagan, an advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, explained.
Still, “most doctors, ethicists, and patient advocates think it’s a bad idea to lie to a doctor, although they all see reasons why patients might want to.”
The Los Angeles Times, in another report says studies indicate some patients may lie about their adherence to treatment plans.
The Times reports that “a number of studies have tried to chronicle how much patients lie about doing what the doctor ordered.”
Researchers have assessed “how much people fib,” based on “how things change when they know they’re being watched.” In one study, “scientists followed 41 patients who had been unsuccessful in lowering their blood pressure with three prescribed drugs.”
The participants “knew they were being monitored electronically,” and after two months, “about one-third of the patients had lowered their blood pressure to the normal range.” Dr. Steven Hahn, professor of clinical medicine at Albert Einstein College, noted that “patients who say they always take their meds may not be.”
In a third report on the topic, the Times interviewed experts who offer tips on encouraging patients to tell the truth.
According to Dr. Jeff Rabatin, co-director of the communication in healthcare program at the Mayo Clinic, “It’s important to establish rapport, so” patients feel “comfortable telling the truth.” Physicians “can encourage honesty just by asking the right questions,” Dr. Robert Klitzman, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, explains.
He adds that a “‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy . . . isn’t productive for doctor-patient relationships,” because “it’s unlikely the patient will volunteer information about them.”
But, Dr. Klitzman notes that “just as important as the questions doctors ask is the way they phrase them.”
Dr. Rabatin also says “doctors need to remember than sometimes patients take a long time working up the nerve to say something.”
So, the bottom line when it comes to being highly healthy? Honesty (with your doctor) is the best policy.