Nov. 22, 2017
By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
Do you know when your patients are lying to you? According to a 2009 study conducted by General Electric Co. with the Cleveland Clinic and Ochsner Health System, there are lies doctors get used to repeatedly hearing. A few of the top lies: “I quit smoking months ago,” “I rarely drink” and “I’m a fitness nut!” Click HERE to read the rest of the list.
A WebMD survey in 2004 found:
• 38 percent of patients “stretched the truth” about following doctor’s orders
• 32 percent lied about how much they exercised
• 22 percent lied about smoking
• 17 percent lied about sex
• 16 percent lied about alcohol use
• 12 percent lied about recreational drug use
Lies an eyecare doctor often hears are: “I wear my contact lenses exactly as you prescribed them,” “I use the contact lens solutions you prescribed,” “I have back-up eyewear that I can use” and “I take my eye drops just like you prescribed.”
Why do patients lie?
There are many reasons patients lie to us. Some patients lie because they want to present themselves to us in a positive light. Sometimes they lie because they don’t want us to lecture them about their bad behavior. Occasionally, we’ll come across a patient who lies to get something from us such as a diagnosis that enables them to collect from an insurance company for a problem they do not have. But we also have to consider that in the aging population we are seeing, it could be a memory problem – they just don’t remember correctly.
How can we tell when patients lie?
When patients do not tell us the truth it can have a negative impact on their health and/or their visual performance outcomes. It’s important for us to discover the truth, even when patients are not being forthright with the truth. We need to have the ability to see through the lies. We do have some tools that we can use to help us get to the truth. Here are five tools that help us identify when patients are not being truthful:
• Gut instinct
• Observing guilty body language such as avoiding eye contact or fidgeting
• Observing a change in the tone of voice or facial expression
• Healthy skepticism (always think about what may be at stake for this patient)
• Test results that do not match what the patient is saying
What can we do when patients lie?
What can we do to manage patients who lie to us? The most important thing is to establish trust with the patient. The best way to establish trust is to, in a caring and non-confrontational way, educate the patient. It’s the classic good news, bad news conversation. First, explain the bad news – the consequences – if the patient does not follow your treatment plan, then discuss the good news – the benefits – if the patient does follow your treatment plan. The key is to make sure the patient understands that your number one concern is to improve their quality of life. Make sure they understand that you care about improving their health and maximizing their performance. Make sure they understand you care about them.