Getting Honest Answers When Patients Are Tempted to Lie

March 8, 2013 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


Physicians may not be surprised that patients sometimes lie or misrepresent their concerns during clinical encounters, but there are some signs physicians can look out for, states a February 18, 2013, Wall Street Journal article. Some physicians say they look for signs of anxiety, including avoiding eye contact, pausing, and voice inflections. However, the article observes that patients have a variety of reasons for speaking untruthfully—some are lying to themselves because they would like a lie to be true (such as how often they exercise), while others lie because they disagree with a physician or feel like they may be judged (such as how long a baby should use a pacifier). Some physicians say that a good provider/patient relationship is essential for getting patients to speak honestly; they avoid being confrontational or giving stern lectures, instead accepting less-than-ideal truths nonjudgmentally.

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