Patients don’t seem to have a very good grasp on how honest their physicians can be. Although a Gallup poll in December reported that Americans think quite highly of the honesty and ethics of their health care providers, reports coming out just weeks later revealed that physicians aren’t always as honest as patients think.
The Gallup poll showed that Americans have the highest regard for nurses with 86% saying that the honesty and ethics of nurses is very high or high. They were followed by pharmacists (76%) and medical doctors (70%). Nurses have consistently topped the list since their inclusion in 1999, with the only exception being 2001 when firefighters were added to measure support after 9/11.
Of course, not all health care professionals have the trust of the American public. Psychiatrists didn’t fare quite as well. The percent of Americans who find the honesty and ethics of psychiatrists to be very high or high is only ever in the 30s. Nursing home operators only get a percentage in the 20s.
In February a Health Affairs study revealed a slightly different tale. A third of physicians surveyed didn’t completely agree that they needed to disclose serious medical errors to patients. One-tenth admitted they had told patients something that wasn’t true in the last year.
The report also explained that doctors might describe a diagnosis to sound more positive than it is. Although they do this so as not to upset patients, further studies suggest that patients want to know the truth so they can make a more informed decision about their care. However, the majority of physicians did completely agree that they should fully inform patients about risks and benefits of treatments.
Another thing physicians didn’t feel the need to tell their patients was their financial ties with drug and device companies.