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What Happens When We Lie to Our Doctors

By Sandy Schroeder

It turns out most Americans lie to their doctors quite a bit, creating confusion and danger in the process.  If that strikes a nerve with you, read on. It's amazing what so many of us do with the most important thing of all, our lives.

How the Conversation Goes, Or Not

A new study published in JAMA Network Open says 4 out of 5 Americans leave out key facts that could be crucial to their health when talking to their doctors.

Senior researcher, Angela Fagerlin, and her colleagues at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, surveyed 4,500 patients that were divided into two groups. One group had an average age of 36 and the other had an average age of 61. Overall, the younger group of patients consistently withheld information more frequently than the older group, averaging 81 to 61 percent.

If you think about it, all the doctor has to go on is what he or she can see, hear or test with a patient. Training and experience often help the doctor spot hidden clues,  but visit time is limited and decisions have to be made.

Many doctors tell stories about patients who simply forget to mention taking legal or illegal drugs. Sometimes they only reveal the truth when they are being wheeled off to surgery.

Why This Happens

Key issues cause people to lie.

  • They are unwilling to admit to unhealthy habits
  • They do not want to openly disagree with their doctor
  • They do not understand what the doctor has said
  • They do not want some information in their medical record.

Serious Consequences

Unshared information can be fatal, which is why it's a good idea to tell the doctor the truth.

Prevent drug interactions - When doctors have all of the facts, they can prevent drug interactions or change a patient's treatment so the prescription will be more acceptable to the patient.

Improve patient follow-up - Researchers found about 46 percent of the time the younger group and 31 percent of the older group did not agree with the doctor's recommendations. This means they may not take the prescribed medications or do follow-up tests.

Patients won't admit lack of clarity - In the younger patients, 32 percent would not admit they did not understand the instructions. Among the older group it was 24 percent.

Personal habits were hidden - Not taking prescribed medications, poor diet, lack of exercise and taking someone else's  medicine were the key areas.

Getting the Most Out of Doctor Visits

Make sure you and your doctor can communicate, and then simply tell the truth. If you have omitted key facts about lifestyle, habits or symptoms, right now would be the best time to correct that, and make sure your chart is updated to ensure safe treatment wherever you go. Even if that makes you uncomfortable, it may save your life.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Downers Grove, Ill.

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