Liar, Liar, Doc’s on Fire!

Think your doctor is telling you the truth?  After we’ve literally bared our bodies and souls to them, you’d think they would give us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

So it’s perhaps surprising to learn that a survey of U.S. physicians found that “some patients might not receive complete and accurate information.”  The findings were published in Health Affairs – a leading journal of health policy thought and research that explores issues of current concern in both domestic and international spheres.

The survey included approximately 1900 physicians specializing in primary care (internal medicine, family practice, and pediatrics) as well as specialists in cardiology, general surgery, psychiatry, and anesthesiology.  These physicians responded to a questionnaire exploring their attitudes about communication with patients.

Among the findings:

The vast majority of physicians completely agreed that physicians should fully inform patients about the risks and benefits of interventions and should never disclose confidential information to unauthorized persons.

However:

  • Over 10% admitted to having told an adult patient or child’s guardian “something that was not true” in the past year
  • One-third of physicians did not completely agree with disclosing serious medical errors to patients
  • Nearly 20% said they had not “fully disclosed a mistake to patients” because of fear of being sued
  • About two thirds said they should disclose financial relationships with drug and device companies to their patients, the other third only partially agreed or disagreed.

These findings have raised concerns that some patients might not receive complete and accurate information from their physicians, and doubts about whether patient-centered care is broadly possible without more widespread physician endorsement of the core communication principles of openness and honesty with patients.

Do you want your doctor to tell you the truth, no matter what?  Is an omission of information ever acceptable?  Can a little sugar-coating be good?  Let us know what you think.

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