Why and How to be Fully Transparent with Your Physician
If doctors could wave a magic wand, they would ideally know everything about you. But we all know that’s difficult-to-impossible to do in a world of infrequent appointments that are typically only 10 minutes long or less. As an MDVIP patient, you have the luxury of long appointments (averaging 45 minutes), during which your physician can really dig in to learn all about you—your health, your lifestyle, your family and relationships, that all contribute to the matrix of your health.
Your doc can only learn about you and your health issues and concerns, however, to the extent of what you reveal and tell them—which doctors wish was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, no secrets and lies. But if you’re like most people, there’s a good chance you’ve glossed over important information or forgotten crucial details when speaking to your doctor.
A 2018 study by research scientists in the health sciences department at the University of Utah Health found that 60 to 80 percent of people surveyed haven’t been forthcoming to their physician with relevant information to their health. They admitted to especially lying or stretching the truth about their diet and exercise habits. The reasons? Respondents said they didn’t want to be lectured or judged, and more than 50 percent said they were just too embarrassed to tell the truth.
Through decades, centuries and millennia, patients have help back what could be vital information. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; it’s human nature to not feel comfortable about sharing what some of our anatomical features are doing—whether out of fear, embarrassment or not thinking it’s important.
Many times as patients, we may think some things going on aren’t related to the specific medical concern at hand, or are irrelevant or inconsequential. That’s our tendency to play doctor and self-diagnose in a world of online symptom checkers and ‘Dr. Google.’ Then there are those embarrassing symptoms and concerns that doctors wish we’d tell them that we may feel too awkward, sheepish and squeamish to reveal before, finally, the discomfort is just too much to hold back. More importantly, though, it might be a symptom of a potentially critical medical issue that if known early could have caught the condition in time to prevent, cure or treat in the most mildly invasive way.
Simply put, not being open can have anywhere from mild to dire consequences.
Your doctor is your partner in health, and what they most wish is for you to be a completely open book. This gives them the best opportunity to intelligently diagnose and conduct proper risk assessments, get any tests and screenings you potentially might need, effectively treat you, and take the best preventive measures against something having possibly serious or even deadly consequences.
Omitting health information while talking to your physician can result in misdiagnosis, incorrect treatments and a variety of potential complications. If you’ve made an appointment to see your doctor, that’s a big sign you’re concerned about something, right? Well, your doctor needs to know everything to be able to perform their job to their best ability.
Remembering details and being as open as possible truly is the best policy for doctors to provide the best care and do their best job for you. They won’t judge you. So don’t keep secrets from your physician, keep calm and carry on—get comfortable sharing, for your health.
Here are ways to help you be honest
- Be ready to tell your doctor about all of your symptoms, even if you don’t think they’re relevant.
- Don’t downplay your symptoms or exaggerate. Tell it like it is.
- Don’t skip the details—be specific.
- Be honest about when the symptoms first occurred, even if you feel you should have made an appointment sooner. Your doctor needs an accurate timeline for proper diagnosis.
- Be specific about any lifestyle changes that happened around the times you first noticed your symptoms, or lifestyle changes you made in response to them.
- Remind your doctor of any previous issues or things in your family history that you’re concerned might be connected—it’s always better to ask too many questions than not enough.