Study: 50 percent of patients withhold information from their doctor

A new study has shown that a surprisingly high number of patients withhold important medical information from their physicians. This can lead to serious problems, as electronic health records can only aid disease prevention and undetected diagnoses if they contain complete information.

Patients omit information to avoid lectures
This information was collected by Software Advice in an online survey of more than 3,000 Americans, asking about information patients withhold from their doctors. The results showed that 50 percent of consumers admitted to lying or deliberately misleading a physician during an office visit. The most common types of information that patients are dishonest about include drug or alcohol use, diet, sexual activity and current medications.

However, this number may be even higher, as patients may sometimes give inaccurate information without realizing it. Davis Liu, M.D., a family physician, told Software Advice that many patients will tell their doctors what illness they assume they have, instead of accurately describing the symptoms.

Respondents of the survey indicated that when they willingly deceived their physicians, it was most likely because they wanted to avoid being embarrassed or receiving a lecture. These types of deceit may not seem like a big deal to patients, but having inaccurate information in an EHR can lead to serious problems.

Issues can arise from inaccurate EHR data
Research has shown that inaccurate medical data in EHRs can often lead to issues for both the patients and the organization. Patients who withhold information about their medication use are increasing their chances of experiencing an adverse drug event, and individuals who lie about their diet or activity level may be withholding valuable diagnostic clues.

"Misinformation in electronic medical records, whether accidental or otherwise, has far-reaching consequences for patients and healthcare policy," Anna Lembke, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford's School of Medicine, told FierceEMR. 

FierceEMR noted that incorrect EHR data can adversely impact research that includes the data. Healthcare providers often use aggregated information to make important clinical care or organization policy decisions, and having a false picture of patients' health may lead administrators to make poor choices.

To address the problem of patient dishonesty, physicians should try to assure individuals that their medical information will remain confidential and that the medical staff will remain impartial unless it is a matter of the patient's health. Software Advice also found that 19 percent of patients would be forthright if their physicians explained the consequences of providing inaccurate information.

Kevin McCarthy's picture

Kevin McCarthy

Industry News Editor

An avid traveler and news junkie, Kevin covers a range of topics from healthcare technology to policy and regulations. As a former journalism student, he enjoys finding stories relevant to small practices and is passionate about keeping them informed. Before joining NueMD, Kevin worked for Turner Broadcasting as a Programming Intern where he conducted legal research and contributed to editorial content development. He received his bachelor's degree in Communication from Kennesaw State University and currently serves as the Industry News Editor at NueMD.

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