Nov. 30, 2022
When patients make an appointment in your office, or that of any other doctor, they are asked to fill out multiple forms online or when they get to the office. One of those forms is related to ensuring patients know their rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). New research reveals that the process of filling out that form can spur communication mishaps between doctor and patient.
“Research shows that 60-90 percent of patients lie to their healthcare providers for a variety of reasons, from avoiding embarrassment to approval seeking, and the result can be devastating. Data indicate roughly 1.5 million people are affected by incorrect medications, adding $3.5 billion in additional annual health care costs,” Adriana Sanchez writes on the Brigham Young University website in an article detailing the new findings.
“HIPAA is supposed to make people feel better. It is meant to help them feel comfortable with sharing their accurate information because they are being ensured it will be kept safe,” Sanchez quotes Mark Keith, BYU professor of information systems, as saying. “What is so interesting about this study is that we are finding it has the exact opposite effect.”
For the study, recently published in PLOS ONE, researchers asked roughly 600 participants to fill out a form online asking for their medical history with questions about mental health and other sensitive topics. The survey included questions about weight, height, prescription and illegal drug abuse, exercise and smoking.
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Researchers then used mouse tracking technology to measure participant interaction with the online questions. (Studies have shown this technology accurately predicts when someone is acting dishonestly online.) After collecting and analyzing the data, they then asked who would be willing to share how much they had lied while filling out the form.
“We discovered that women were more likely to lie initially but would then ‘come clean’ if questioned further,” Keith told Sanchez. “However, men were more likely to lie once you asked them if they were lying. In other words, if men lied at the beginning, they would lie again later.”
Using six separate participant groups, they also studied how different wording on the online forms elicited different responses and levels of lying. They found that the wording that resulted in the most men lying was when they are given a HIPAA notice coupled with a statement exclaiming how untruthful information will hurt the accuracy of the diagnosis. Women, on the other hand, lied more when they were given a HIPAA notice and the following statement was framed as a benefit to truthfully sharing information.
Researchers explain that accurate information is an important contributor to accurate diagnosis and treatment. “Yet more than three quarters of patients withhold or lie about symptoms, intake, activities and medication, which can have significant implications for their healthcare,” write the study authors.