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How Successful Are Physicians in Eliciting the Truth From Their Patients? A Large-Scale Internet Survey From Patients’ Perspectives [CME]

J Clin Psychiatry 2012;73(3):311-317
10.4088/JCP.11m07078

Objective: How honestly patients report their symptoms and medication adherence to their physicians has not been adequately addressed in patients with depression. We therefore conducted a large-scale Internet survey in an effort to discover how successful physicians are in eliciting the truth from their patients and also to examine reasons for patients’ truth-concealing behaviors.

Method: 2,354 participants who had received treatment for depression within the past year and had been diagnosed with depression by Patient Health Questionaire were identified from 323,226 registrants at the Macromill database through screening procedures. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire regarding their treatment for depression with a special focus on patient-physician relationship. This study was conducted from December 7 to 13, 2010, in Japan.

Results: 2,020 participants successfully completed the questionnaire. Overall, 70.2% of responders reported that they had withheld the truth from their physicians. A logistic regression model found significant associations of such a behavior with female sex (95% CI, 1.15–1.74; P = .001), younger age (95% CI, 0.49–0.97; P = .030), and a lower degree of satisfaction in mutual communication (95% CI, 3.17–6.58; P < .001). 69.2% and 52.6% of the participants refrained from telling about their “daily activities” and “symptoms,” respectively. Female participants were more likely to hide the facts concerning “adherence to prescribed medication” and “figures such as body temperature and weight.” 31.9% of participants had discontinued the treatment without consulting their physician, which was again more frequent in females, younger persons, and those who were not satisfied with communication with their physician.

Conclusions: While the findings obtained herein need to be replicated in other patient populations, a majority of patients with depression were reluctant to uncover the truth, which emphasizes the need for more fine-tuned suspicion among physicians about symptoms and medication adherence.

J Clin Psychiatry 2012;73(3):311–317

Submitted: April 18, 2011; accepted August 16, 2011(doi:10.4088/JCP.11m07078).

Corresponding author: Norifusa Sawada, MD, Department of Psychiatry, Oizumi Hospital, 6-9-1 Oizumigauencho, Nerima-ku, Tokyo, 178-0061, Japan (sawada_@tb3.so-net.ne.jp).