Public Health

If You’ve Ever Told a Little White Lie to Your Doctor, You’re Not Alone

A patient at a health care visit.
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Do you always tell your doctor the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t.

In fact, research suggests that four out of five people withhold important information from their health care provider. And that’s a big problem because omitting key details about your well-being could actually harm your health in the long run.

For example, if you fail to mention certain vitamins, supplements or over-the-counter products that you take, your doctor could unknowingly prescribe a drug that causes a dangerous interaction.

Withholding information about your overall health and lifestyle can also delay an important diagnosis. If you’ve had a nagging stomachache that you brush off and don’t discuss it to your doctor, your doctor won’t have the opportunity to explore that and help you determine the cause and solution to cure it. While it is most likely an easy fix, there is always the possibility that it is something more serious that could require a specialist’s care.

Why Most People Don’t Tell Doctors the Whole Truth

There are a variety of reasons why patients leave out information while talking to their doctors. According to the study, some of the most common ones include:

  • Not wanting to be judged or lectured
  • Not wanting to hear how harmful a behavior is
  • Feeling embarrassed to admit something
  • Not wanting the doctor to think that you’re a difficult patient
  • Not wanting to take up more of the doctor’s time
  • Feeling like the information isn’t relevant or important
  • Not wanting the information to appear on your medical record
  • Not wanting to make a difficult lifestyle change that the doctor might recommend

Withholding information can be a serious issue. In fact, researchers found that people who were sicker or had chronic medical conditions were actually more likely to keep information from their health care provider. This is troubling because physicians need as much information as possible in order to make safe and effective decisions to guide your whole-health care.

AdventHealth Primary Care provider Dr. Matthew Ho says - "Being honest with your physician can be a challenge- because it requires you to be vulnerable. Unfortunately, there seems to be a general misconception that vulnerability equals weakness. My advice is to think of it as a challenge- show me how strong you are by telling me something I have never heard".

Why It’s Important to Work With Your Doctor for Complete Well-Being

Both physicians and patients play a role in making sure that patients disclose as much information as possible about their physical, emotional and even spiritual health. After asking a question — especially about sensitive topics — providers should wait and give patients time to answer before moving on.

For patients, it’s always helpful to bring a list of questions or concerns with you to your doctor’s appointment. This can help you remember all of your important topics to discuss and stay on track if your white coat jitters get the best of you. We also have some additional tips on how to make your next doctor’s visit a more positive experience.

It’s also important to find a provider who you feel comfortable talking with and trust. The more at ease you are and the more you know your doctor is really listening and truly cares about your whole health, the more likely you’ll be to share all of the information that matters to direct your health.

If you’re looking for a primary care physician who is ready to partner with you on your path to feeling whole, turn to us for help. See how we approach whole-health care a little differently.

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