Should patients lie to their doctors?

Apparently, there are some legitimate reasons why a patient may lie to their physicians.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times discusses the phenomenon, which as Dr. Gregory House would aptly summarize as, “Everyone lies.”

In fact, a recent survey suggests that “38% of respondents said they lied about following doctors’ orders and 32% about diet or exercise.”

One interesting reason is that patients are wary disclosing potentially damaging information to health insurance companies. Indeed, when patients apply for individual health insurance, their medical record is pulled up. And since trivial details can cause insurance companies to deny health coverage, patients certainly may have second thoughts about giving an accurate history.

Furthermore, “when processing a claim, the insurance company finds something in a patient’s records that contradicts something the patient said when purchasing the policy, the company can retroactively cancel the policy.”

That’s pretty harsh.

But making medical decisions on inaccurate information have consequences as well, including providing poor patient care.

One suggested option would be to maintain two sets of medical records, one that is shared with the insurance companies, and a private one that is not released to third parties. Some patient advocacy groups even go as far as saying, “If your physician won’t do that, it’s reason enough to leave the physician.”

I currently don’t offer such an option. I wonder how many other practices do.

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