A recent study published in Journal of General Internal Medicine revealed with patients’ agenda of what mattered most , only, 1/3 felt they had sufficient attention from physician visits.

Also, according to research published  in JAMA Network Open  from 4500 adults surveyed  60% to 80%  admitted to omissions, distortions and outright lies when talking to their doctors about topics such as how often they exercised, whether they take dietary supplements or how much alcohol they drank. 

Why the cover-up.  There are various reasons why patients are not completely honest with their doctors. 

  • Shame: not wanting to reveal things they may consider unacceptable.
  • Embarrassment: A reluctance to admit they didn’t take their medications because they could not afford them.
  • Desire to be liked:  Wanting to appear to be a “good patient”.
  • Fear of bad news: Failing to mention worrisome symptoms because they are afraid the information might point to a serious illness.

Communication issues may interfere with honest dialogue due to today’s strained health-care system with shorter doctors visits, electronic record-keeping and overburdened medical personnel..  Research shows that doctors interrupt patients within 11 seconds. when patient’s are voicing concerns.  This is not simple rudeness..doctors are trained to zero in on diagnosis.

Listening  also can be a problem in which doctors and patients fall short..  Omissions in your story may occur if the doctor is distracted by the computer on which they are entering notes or preoccupied with unraveling an earlier symptom. With all the inherent traps in doctor-patient communications, symptoms can be overlooked, misdiagnoses and missed opportunities for the most effective medical intervention.

  To avoid such consequences:

Make good communication your top priority:   

It is the part of your physician visit that deserves the most time and energy.  If this happens, all the other pieces , such as the physical exam, blood tests and x-rays, will fall into place

Bring a list of all your questions and concerns:

 Show the doctor your list and ask them to pick out what is important. If there is an item that is especially important to you, let the doctor know.

Don’t censor yourself: 

 Don’t be ashamed to bring up whatever matters to you…even if you are not sure whether it is medically important.

Ask a family member  or close friend to be a second listener and take notes.   If you are alone and can’t take notes, ask your doctor if it is OK to record the conversation on your smartphone.

Be sure the doctor is listening: 

If they are not, say tactfully, “could you please stop looking at the computer for a minute while I get my story out?  I’ll be brief.”

Confirm how to stay in touch:  

Whether it is a patient portal, e-mail or number to call, find out how to ask additional questions or request clarifications on anything you don’t understand.

Don’t stick with a doctor with whom you’re  unable to speak freely: 

If you don’t feel able to get your story heard, think seriously about changing doctors.

ALSO: You will be less likely to lie, fudge or skip over things with a doctor you trust and feel comfortable , thus improving the communication.