Viewpoint: Patients’ lies to providers must be addressed

It is imperative that physicians form more collaborative, trusting relationships with their patients to encourage more honest conversations about their health, Angela Fagerlin, PhD, department chair of population health sciences at Salt Lake City-based University of Utah School of Medicine, argues in an op-ed for AAMC News.

Over 80 percent of patients have withheld important information from their physicians, according to a 2018 study conducted by Dr. Fagerlin and several of her colleagues. Patients' reasons for lying included not wanting to be judged or lectured on their behavior, wanting to avoid hearing how bad their behavior is and feeling embarrassed.

To address these issues, Dr. Fagerlin suggests fostering "a collaborative physician-patient relationship." Instead of using top-down communication, physicians should take a problem-solving approach that allows them to work together with patients. A physician might ask a patient whether a given medication strains his or her family budget, for example, and then talk through the issue with the patient to address such concerns.

Dr. Fagerlin argues that failure to improve physician-patient relationships could endanger patients' lives and well-being, since they may be tempted to withhold crucial health information from their physicians.

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