When a patient lies to you, you may forgive the first offense, but if it continues, it can become tiresome.
When a patient lies to you, you may forgive the first offense, but if it continues, it can become tiresome. Worse yet, it can be dangerous and result in harmful drug interactions, higher treatment costs, or ineffective therapy.
In fact, a WebMD survey found that 32% of patients reported “stretching the truth” when dealing with their health care providers. Only 13% admitted to outright lying.
Additionally, patients between 25 and 34 years old were most likely to lie to their physicians, and they tended to lie about recreational drug use, sexual history, smoking, and alcohol consumption.
Here are 8 patient fibs pharmacists hate to hear:
1. Fib: “I always take my medications as prescribed.”
Reality: Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents lied about following their physician’s orders. The patient who says he never misses a dose may have forgotten to take his medication for an entire week. He may remember to take it for a day or 2, forget for 5 more days, remember the next week, and then forget again. Anticoagulation pharmacists know what I’m talking about.
2. Fib: “I rarely drink.”
Reality: Sixteen percent of survey respondents lied about how much or how often they consume alcohol. Twenty-four percent of men reported lying about alcohol use, compared with 15% of women. Your patients’ happy hour may last from 4 PM until last man standing every single night, or at least every weekend. Little do they know that if they take their Flagyl with alcohol, they’ll regret it when they’re blowing chunks. Or, if they combine alcohol with other sleep-inducing medications, they could end up killing themselves if they try to drive.
3. Fib: “I’m picking this up for my grandpa.”
Reality: This patient is probably the person picking up the prescription, and the Viagra is most likely for him. No worries, though, because the pharmacist couldn’t care less. Besides, there’s nothing to be ashamed of and the pharmacist is a professional who’s capable of acting accordingly.
4. Fib: “Do you have any Sudafed? My girlfriend is sick.”
Reality: This patient is probably just looking for something to cook up in his basement lab.
5. Fib: “I lost my pain pills.”
Reality: “As needed” has probably turned into “all the time” for this patient. Or, perhaps the patient sells pills for extra cash or has a serious addition. There are occasions when a medication loss happens, but it shouldn’t be happening every month on the same day.
6. Fib: “I don’t do other drugs.”
Reality: Twelve percent of survey respondents reported lying about recreational drug use. This patient probably smokes marijuana with his friends now and then but doesn’t think that’s anything to get worked up over.
7. Fib: “I don’t eat junk food.”
Reality: Thirty-two percent of survey respondents reported lying about their diet and exercise habits. You may see a box of donuts in this patient’s cart, but he swears they’re “for the kids.”
8. Fib: “I don’t take any other medicines.”
Reality: Seven percent of survey respondents reported lying about taking herbs, supplements, and other therapies. This patient may neglect to mention taking ginseng to stave off Alzheimer’s, vitamin C supplements to get rid of a cold, and Advil to treat the occasional headache or injury.
No matter how many studies are conducted or how much is written about the dangers of lying to health care professionals, patients still don’t seem to be getting the picture. Pharmacists can do their part by getting to know patients and cultivating a nonjudgmental relationship based on trust and honesty, but ultimately, patients have to take responsibility for their actions and fess up in order to stay safe and healthy.