Docs not always honest with patients

Honesty is the best policy, but according to a survey published in the February Health Affairs, that's not necessarily the case in healthcare. In fact, many physicians don't always follow the Charter on Medical Professionalism standards that promote physician honesty and openness with patients.

Of the 1,891 practicing physicians surveyed in 2009, about one-third did not completely agree that they should disclose serious medical errors to patients, and nearly two-fifths did not completely agree that they should reveal their financial ties to drug and device manufacturers, noted a Health Affairs blog post.

Further, more than one-tenth of physicians admitted they told patients something that was untrue within the past year, while more than half said they described a patient's prognosis with more optimism than justified, reported Medscape Today.

Such findings may throw a wrench into the industry's move toward patient-centered care, as they suggest patients may get incomplete and inaccurate information from their physicians.

"Until all physicians take a frank and open approach to communication, it will be very difficult to enact patient-centered care more broadly," wrote lead author Lisa Iezzoni, a physician and professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the blog post noted.

The lack of honesty and openness with patients should serve as a "welcome wake-up call" to healthcare providers, Linda Emanuel, a medical ethicist from Northwestern University, told Medscape. "We need to do some serious interventions to return to our ethical values," she said.

The survey also revealed that honest communication may be driven by demographics, as women and underrepresented minorities in healthcare are more likely to adhere to the Charter on Medical Professionalism standards.

For more information:
- read the study abstract
- here's the Health Affairs blog post
- read the Medscape article