When patients lie to doctors (and why it is not so unusual)

Marta Cristofanini

Helping doctors to access “virgin” patients’ data in respect of privacy and a spontaneous shyness. Maybe new assistive technologies can help

More than lies, it would be more accurate to talk about omissions. Recent studies have demonstrated how most of patients tend to hide details about their health condition, due to embarrassment and a sense of modesty.

The Italian study that has involved 800 subjects among doctors and patients outlined some recursive patterns, offering some ambivalent data. While it’s true that patients lie to their doctors more often than we think, we need to ask: why does this happen?

59% of interviewed specialists claims that patiens hide – at least partially – informations and details about the cause of their visit. That doesn’t damage their reliance on them; it’s not about insubordination: this mechanism underlies negligence and laziness (reasons involving 46% overall) and, most important, an Italian distrust towards medicines (we are talking about the 41% of cases).

The 47% of interviewed admits they won’t present themselves for a second visit; that would happen to ascertain about the prescribed care with another specialist. However, this percentage goes to balance a 40% of individuals who claims they just forgot the date or that they have been defeated by laziness.

74% of our sample declares they won’t change their own specialist. Both because of a feeling of reliance and a feeling of comfort and safety gave by having the same person guarding our clinical history.

Patients could lie to doctors or making omissions

Other studies confirm

A study published on JAMA Network Open, in Medical Education section, corroborates what we have seen previously.

The majority of subjects (81%) – recruited with Mechanical Turk – have reported having omitted to her/his own specialist at least one of the seven informative medical types of relevance. A fact which has been admitted too by the 61,4% of the other sample collected through Survey Sampling International’s tool. The most frequent omission type is the one related to the patient’s disagreement about the prescription. It is also stated a misunderstanding of care instructions.

Which are the reasons behind that? In the first place, we have a 82% from Mturk and a 64% from SSI who reveals the intention of escaping the specialist’s judgment; immediately after, we find a fear of knowing about their own health status. In conclusion, there is a feeling of embarrassment relating habits and personal behaviors.

How to get some help in this?

New technologies in respect of privacy

The aim is not to replace doctors of course; but an unobtrusive tool for monitoring patients’ health as Kibi could help to complete the clinical picture. It would allow to access recorded and consulted data to overcome a natural prudery/negligence. And this would always happen with respect to privacy.

Furthermore, it could also function as an “orthotic system”. That is to say, as a reminder of daily activities and prescriptions.

A smart, dynamic, discreet ally: new technologies in assistive contexts could be really representative of this trend.

Privacy’s protection and autonomous, efficient filling of eventual communication’s gaps are privileged tools for obtaining priceless results: wellness and trust of your own patients.

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