BY JILLIAN HALL
ACCORDING TO A RECENT STUDY conducted by Dr. Nancy Jasper, an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, 52 percent of women lie to their doctors. Somehow, we think a little fib won’t cause much harm. But “dancing around the truth” leads to a dangerous road. Harmful prescriptions can be prescribed, misdiagnoses can be made, and deadly side effects can result. When it comes to your relationship with your doctor, the truth matters. But patients aren’t the only ones lying. In a recent NYTimes.com article, Dr. Sandeep Jauhar confessed, “Physicians sometimes deceive, too. We don’t always reveal when we make mistakes. Too often we order unnecessary tests – to bolster revenue or to protect against lawsuits. We sometimes mislead patients [and tell them] that our therapies have more value, more evidence behind them, than they actually do.”
With all the fibbing going on, it’s important to ask hard-nosed questions. “What you don’t know can hurt you – physically and financially,” says Dr. Teresa Dean, an internist and Duke University School of Medicine graduate. So, we asked her to share six critical questions you should ask your doctor.
Are you Board Certified?
Dr. Dean: If you have a chronic medical condition, this is a very important question to ask your doctor. Board Certification helps to verify that a physician’s skills and knowledge are up-to-date. All practicing physicians are required to have a medical license, but Board Certification indicates that a doctor has a high level of expertise in a particular area of medicine. Board Certified physicians are required (every six to ten years) to participate in continuing education and examinations. As a result, you can feel more confident that they’re staying current with the latest medical advancements in their specialty.
How experienced are you in treating my condition?
Dr. Dean: Patients shouldn’t hesitate to ask for their doctors’ credentials and experience. Find out where they went to school, and what kind of research they’ve done. Also, ask what areas they specialized in during their studies and practice. A medical degree isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment plan. Physicians have different areas of expertise, experience, and ever-evolving knowledge. Therefore, patients should ask doctors whether they have a strong background in treating their condition. For someone who wants general care, a primary care physician alone will probably suffice. But if you’re a person with a specific condition (like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.), you should seek the most skilled doctor that your resources, insurance, and location can provide.