We’ve all done it: lied to our doctor. We said we drank 8 glasses of water a day. We told her we only smoke half a pack a week. We claimed to have taken our medicine every day, exactly as prescribed. Oh yeah, and we definitely did those stretches that she said would help our back pain. Although those were lies, they were only white lies, right? It was our little secret.
Well, here’s my little secret: I know you lied. I also know why you did it.
-You wanted my approval.
-You wanted me to get off your case.
-You worry that somehow the real answer will get you in trouble, that I’ll shake my finger at you or put you in a dunce cap.
I want you to know that whatever doctors you had before, whatever kind of relationship you had with them that led you to feel this way and convinced you that they were judging you for your answers…you can leave it behind.
It is my job to make medical evaluations, but it is not my job to chastise you for not meeting the goal you think has been set for you. I have no interest in being your doctor-parent. I see no use in the guilt routine. What I’m interested in is a relationship with my patients in which I am a guide, where we are partners, where we set realistic expectations based on where you actually stand.
I’m interested in honesty. I’m interested in trust. You should be too.
If you (falsely) tell me you’re drinking 8 glasses of water a day, I may misinterpret your labs when they show me markers of dehydration. If you lie about how often you’ve been taking your supplements, then I won’t ask you if you’d like to switch to a form that may be more convenient for you, and I may advise you to discontinue a supplement that would have worked for you (if you had been taking it) because you weren’t seeing results.
It does us no good — neither of us — to deceive each other, however well-intentioned it may be. I cannot give you effective advice or treatment if I don’t know the truth of what’s going on with you. You can’t make informed decisions about your healthcare if I am not forthcoming about your options. The best, most thorough treatment plan in the world will do you zero good if you don’t follow it, if it was developed using incorrect information, or if it involves things you can’t or aren’t willing to do. So let’s work together on this.
When it’s done right, the doctor/patient relationship becomes rather intimate; who else in your life can you talk to about your poop? I get that. I love that. Not the poop part, but I love the honor of your trust. I take it seriously and I hope you do too.
I’m not here to judge you, and you don’t have to impress me. I’m here to listen to your story, to engineer a plan to improve your health and decrease your risks. I’m here to help you heal.
If part of the healing you need to do is breaking the habit of those white lies…I’m here for that, too.