The surprising reason patients lie to doctors

Like detectives, physicians often rely on a trail of information to do their jobs. Although patients hurt themselves when they obscure important clues that could lead doctors to the right diagnoses and treatments, there are several factors that prompt white lies in the exam room anyway, according to a survey from digital health platform ZocDoc.

One previously unrecognized barrier to doctors getting the full truth, the survey suggests, is time--or lack thereof. According to the research, 27 percent of more than 2,000 respondents said that they failed to mention some health details due to lack of time or opportunity during their appointments. Further, nearly one-third (32 percent) of respondents said they withheld information because doctors never asked specifically whether anything was bothering them.

"As doctors, we expect some patients will withhold information in the exam room. There is a lot of emotion around personal health. But I think many doctors would be surprised to hear they're getting half-stories often because they haven't left enough time to ask," Oliver Kharraz, M.D., ZocDoc founder and president, said in the announcement.

Other highlights of the study include:

  • Overall, 27 percent of respondents admitted they told doctors white lies or omitted pertinent health information during appointments.
  • More women (30 percent) lie to doctors compared to men (23 percent).
  • The older patients get, the more likely they are to approach a doctor first with a health concern. However, 64 percent of survey respondents older than 65 have avoided bringing up an issue with their doctor because they didn't think it was that serious or worth discussing.

In addition to asking patients open-ended questions about how they are feeling, there are specific ways to probe around potentially sensitive topics, FiercePracticeManagement has reported previously.

To learn more:
- read the announcement