by Tom Emerick

First posted on Cracking Health Costs on 02/25/2013

Tom Emerick, Host of Cracking health Care Costs

An interesting article by Sumathi Reddy appeared in the Wall Street Journal about how patients lie to their doctors.  It’s quite common.  You can bet they lie on company-sponsored “preventive” health risk assessments too.

I’ve heard numerous stories from doctors about this, some quite amusing.  A primary care doctor told me once about a patient who had diabetes. On one of his office appointments the patient brought his wife along.  The doctor started on his usual list of questions about avoiding sugar, walking regularly, etc. When the patient started answering, his wife looked at him and did a big double take.  Turns out the patient had been telling the doctor major fibs all along about how he had altered his lifestyle.

I’ve collected a lot of anecdotes on how employees lie on their health risk assessments.  One is called “smokers amnesia”.  There are many more, some quite clever and amusing.

Per the article, “Patient lies—from half truths and deceptions to bold, blatant lies—are surprisingly common and can be hard to detect in today’s hurried medical practices, doctors say.”

Further, some patients “play down their symptoms“, perhaps to please the doctor or to avoid care they fear.

Others “play up their symptoms“, perhaps to get a handicapped parking permit or a disability award.

Click here to read the full article.

My point is that if people lie to their doctors in face to face conversations, why would anyone think they don’t lie on health risk assessments?  Let’s get real.



Tom Emerick

Coming soon:  Cracking Health Costs, the book, to be published by John Wiley & Sons.  The authors are myself and Al Lewis.  Click here to pre-reserve at a deeply discounted price.

Tom Emerick is the President of Emerick Consulting, LLC, and Partner and Chief Strategy Officer with Laurus Strategies, a Chicago-based consulting firm, and cofounder of Edison Health. Prior to starting his consulting career, Tom was with Walmart Stores, where his last position was Vice President, Global Benefit Design, which involved designing and managing benefits for over 1.3 million employees in the U.S., and 300,000 plus in international. For about six years, Tom also headed up Walmart’s Six Sigma and process improvement initiatives. Prior to Walmart, Tom had positions with Burger King Corporation, British Petroleum, and American Fidelity Assurance Company. In 2009, Tom was named by Healthspottr as one of the top 100 innovators in healthcare the US for his work on medical ethics.  In December 2012, Tom was listed in as one of 13 unsung heroes changing healthcare forever.

Patricia Salber MD, MBA (@docweighsin)
Patricia Salber, MD, MBA is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Doctor Weighs In. She is also the CEO of Health Tech Hatch, the sister site of TDWI that helps innovators tell their stories to the world. She is also a physician executive who has worked in all aspects of healthcare including practicing emergency physician, health plan executive, consultant to employers, CMS, and other organizations. She is a Board Certified Internist and Emergency Physician who loves to write about just about anything that has to do with healthcare.


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