Levy AG, Scherer AM, Zikmund-Fisher BJ, Larkin K, Barnes GD, Fagerlin A.
JAMA Netw Open. Published online August 14, 20192(8):e199277.
How common is it for patients to withhold information from clinicians about imminent threats that they face (depression, suicidality, abuse, or sexual assault), and what are common reasons for nondisclosure?
This survey study, incorporating 2 national, nonprobability, online surveys of a total of 4,510 US adults, found that at least one-quarter of participants who experienced each imminent threat reported withholding this information from their clinician. The most commonly endorsed reasons for nondisclosure included potential embarrassment, being judged, or difficult follow-up behavior.
These findings suggest that concerns about potential negative repercussions may lead many patients who experience imminent threats to avoid disclosing this information to their clinician.
This study reveals an important concern about clinician-patient communication: if patients commonly withhold information from clinicians about significant threats that they face, then clinicians are unable to identify and attempt to mitigate these threats. Thus, these results highlight the continued need to develop effective interventions that improve the trust and communication between patients and their clinicians, particularly for sensitive, potentially life-threatening topics.