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Reasons Why You Need to Be Honest With Your Doctor

Reasons Why You Need to Be Honest With Your Doctor

Not being honest with your doctor can put your health at risk.

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield loved to complain about his physician, Dr. Vinnie Boombatz, whose careless instructions often left Dangerfield in worse condition. “He told me to run five miles a day for eight weeks,” Dangerfield gripes. “I called him up and I said ‘Doc, I’m 70 miles from my house!’”

Dangerfield isn’t the only patient who has suffered from miscommunication with a physician… and the miscommunication goes both ways.

From doc to patient: A survey published in JAMA finds more than a third of patients fail to tell their doctor if they disagree with treatment recommendations or don’t understand them. That puts your health in jeopardy and it’s a major cause of hospital readmission.

From patient to doc: The study also found 80 percent of people have lied to their doctors in ways that could affect their health and medical treatment. The top reason? To avoid being judged.

What to do: When your doc suggests treatment, make sure you understand. Demand clear explanations. And if you have a bad feeling about something, express it.

Your health history and lifestyle habits can be hard to discuss openly, especially if you’ve made poor choices, such as smoking, not exercising or drinking excessively. But you need to get that info to your doc (ask them not to put it in the electronic record), so appropriate care can be offered. Most doctors are not judgmental—they just want to help you get and stay healthy. Trust us, we know these doctors exist.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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