6 Things Doctors Don't Tell Most Patients

Ever wonder if your doctor is really forthcoming or if there's information being held back? Chances are there is something you're not being told. While your physician will always be honest about your health, there are certain things they won't tell you and Eat This, Not That Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who shares six things doctors won't tell you and why. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why Doctors Hold Back Certain Information

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Dr. Mitchell tells us, "In the medical field, there is a saying: 'First, not harm.' This means that, above all else, doctors should avoid causing any harm to their patients. Withholding information from a patient can sometimes achieve this goal. If a patient is not yet ready to face a difficult diagnosis, a doctor may feel that it is best to delay giving them the news. In other cases, a doctor may withhold information to protect a patient's emotional well-being. As anyone who has ever been given bad news knows, hearing something can be just as upsetting as seeing it.

In some cases, then, doctors withhold information to spare their patients unnecessary pain. Of course, this is not always possible or desirable. Ultimately, each situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

From my experience, most patients were thankful that I didn't shy away from the uncomfortable details and did my best to share it with as much compassion as possible. However, I remember one case when a patient got angry at me because they possibly had cancer, based on imaging reports and physical findings, and the patient didn't want to know. I feel that patients should know about these severe diagnoses before they go on months-long trips or travel abroad and have complications due to the diagnosis. Making an informed decision requires the patient to know the pros and cons of the decisions they are going to make.

Although patients trust their doctors to give them accurate and helpful information, there are some things that physicians often withhold. Here are six things that your doctor probably isn't telling you."


There is Often More Than One Way to Treat a Condition

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Dr. Mitchell says, "It's no secret that the medical profession is facing an ethical crisis. In an era of skyrocketing costs and widespread access to information, patients are increasingly demanding – and expectant – of greater transparency from their doctors. One area where this lack of transparency is particularly evident is in the way doctors discuss treatment options with their patients. All too often, patients are given the impression that there is only one way to treat their illness when there are often a number of different options available.

There are a number of reasons why doctors might choose not to share all the available information with their patients. Sometimes, it may be because they are worried about overwhelming themselves with too much information. In other cases, it may be because they prefer one particular course of treatment and don't want to give their patients the impression that there are other options available. Whatever the reason, this lack of transparency is deeply troubling. Patients have a right to know all the available treatment options to make an informed decision about their care."


You May Be Able to Safely Try a Home Remedy Before Starting Medication

woman consulting with female doctor

"Home remedies have been used to treat various ailments for centuries, and in many cases, they can be just as effective as medication," Dr. Mitchell states. "However, there are a few reasons why doctors may not always suggest home remedies to their patients. First of all, home remedies are not always well researched or regulated, and as such, their safety and effectiveness can be difficult to assess. Additionally, home remedies may not be appropriate for everyone; in some cases, they could even interact with medications the patient is already taking. Finally, insurance companies typically do not cover the cost of home remedies, which means that patients would have to pay out of pocket. For these reasons, doctors often prefer to prescribe medication rather than suggest home remedies. However, it is always worth asking your doctor if a home remedy might be right for you."


Some Tests or Procedures May Not Be Necessary

Dr. Mitchell says, "As anyone who has ever been to the doctor knows, tests and procedures can be expensive. In some cases, they may even be unnecessary. So why don't doctors always tell their patients when a test or procedure may not be necessary? There are a few possible reasons. First, some doctors may not be aware that a particular test or procedure is unnecessary. They may have been taught that it is always necessary, or they may simply not be up-to-date on the latest research. Second, even if a doctor knows that a test or procedure is unnecessary, he or she may feel pressure to order it anyway. Patients may demand the test, or the insurance company may require it. Finally, many doctors are simply too busy to explain why a particular test or procedure is unnecessary. As a result, they may order the test or procedure without taking the time to explain the situation to their patients. While doctors may not always tell their patients when a test or procedure is unnecessary, patients need to remember that they have the right to ask questions and get second opinions. Informed patients are often the best advocates for their health."


You're Being Denied the Best Treatment and Investigations Because Your Insurance Isn't Covering It

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According to Dr. Mitchell, "One of the most challenging conversations a doctor can have with a patient is telling them their insurance won't cover a specific treatment or investigation. It's an unfortunate reality of the healthcare system that not all treatments are equally accessible, which can often be a source of frustration and anxiety for patients. While it might be tempting for doctors to simply tell their patients that their insurance is the reason they're being denied the best care, there are a few reasons why they don't always do this. First and foremost, it's essential to maintain a positive relationship with the patient. This conversation could potentially damage trust and make it challenging to have future conversations about care.

Additionally, this conversation can be highly emotional, and doctors want to avoid putting their patients through unnecessary hardship. Finally, there are usually other options available, and doctors want to explore all possible treatment options with their patients before resorting to this conversation. While it's not an easy conversation, both parties must remember that the goal is to find the best possible care for the patient."


Your Diet and Lifestyle Choices Significantly Impact Your Health

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"It's no secret that diet and lifestyle choices can majorly impact our health," says Dr. Mitchell. "Everything from the food we eat to the amount of exercise we get can affect our physical and mental well-being. So why don't doctors always tell their patients about the importance of these choices? There are a few possible reasons. First, there is a lot of misinformation about what constitutes a healthy diet or lifestyle. With so much conflicting advice, it can be difficult for even experts to agree on the best course of action. Second, even if doctors could agree on the best way to promote health, they may not have the time or resources to provide their patients with detailed guidance. Finally, some patients may simply be unwilling to change their habits, regardless of what their doctor says. While there are no easy answers, it's clear that diet and lifestyle choices play a crucial role in our health. Educating ourselves and others about these issues can make better choices that lead to healthier lives."


I Think You're Lying To Me

Senior woman in consultation with her female doctor or therapist

Dr. Mitchell says, "When a doctor-patient relationship first forms, an inherent trust is established. The patient trusts that the doctor will have their best interests at heart and will always be truthful with them. In turn, the doctor trusts that the patient will be honest about their symptoms and health history. However, there are times when this trust is broken. Sometimes, patients will lie to their doctor about their alcohol or drug use, sexual history, or whether they are adhering to their treatment plan. While it may seem like an innocent act, lying to a doctor can have serious consequences. It can lead to misdiagnosis, delayed treatments, and wrong or dangerous medications being prescribed. For these reasons, doctors need to be able to spot when a patient is lying.

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to do this. Often, it comes down to the doctor's gut feeling or years of experience. As frustrating as it may be for both parties, it is often better for the doctor to err on the side of caution and not confront the patient about their suspicions. After all, even if the patient is lying, it is ultimately up to them whether or not they want to tell the truth."

Dr. Mitchell says this "doesn't constitute medical advice and by no means are these answers meant to be comprehensive. Rather, it's to encourage discussions about health choices."