How truthful are you with your doctor?

When your doctor asks how often you exercise, what do you say? If you’ve ever fudged the facts when you’re in the exam room, you’re not alone. According to a recent study, four out of five people withhold important information from their health care provider.

“While it may not seem like a big deal, not telling the whole truth can have harmful health consequences,” says Patricia A. Clancy, MD, a primary care doctor with Main Line Health. “Consider this example: If you don’t mention certain over-the-counter medicines you take, your doctor might prescribe a drug that causes a dangerous interaction with those medicines.”

Why we do it

According to the study, people often leave out information because they don’t want to be judged or hear how a particular behavior might harm their health. They may feel embarrassed to admit to an unhealthy habit like smoking or excessive drinking. Other common reasons include:

  • Not wanting to take up more of their provider’s time
  • Feeling like the information isn’t relevant
  • Not wanting to seem like a difficult patient
  • Not wanting the information to appear on their medical record

Researchers found that people who were sicker or had chronic medical conditions were actually more likely to withhold information from their health care provider. This is serious because doctors need as much information as possible in order to make safe and effective decisions about your care.

Build a partnership

To ensure you cover everything, it’s always helpful to bring along a list of questions or concerns to your health care visit.

“Remember, your doctor isn’t there to judge you,” says Dr. Clancy. “But it’s important to find a provider you trust and feel comfortable talking with. The more at ease you are, and the more you know your doctor is really listening, the more likely you’ll share all the information that matters.”

Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.

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