Trust: It’s the basis of any successful doctor-patient relationship, and it may be even more important than you think.
According to recent research, the more a patient trusts their doctor, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their care. They report more beneficial health behaviors, fewer post-treatment symptoms, and a higher quality of life.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they experience better clinical outcomes; after all, patient satisfaction is a subjective measure. As previous research has shown, higher patient satisfaction correlates with better outcomes. And if greater trust leads to higher satisfaction and the perceived quality of care, then fostering it becomes downright imperative.
Unfortunately, we live in a time when traditional models of trust are crumbling. As the latest Edelman Trust Barometer reports, trust in key institutions (government, media, business, and NGOs) is at or near historic lows around the world. Besieged by fake news and alternative facts, it’s no surprise many people are unsure of who they can truly trust.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Among the four key institutions covered in the Edelman report, business scored the highest, with trust in healthcare actually rising from the year before. As the report notes:
The healthcare industry is making slow but steady progress. They will be rewarded for addressing the biggest gaps between expectations and performance — demonstrating transparency and authenticity in their actions, and showing that they are equally concerned about a wide variety of stakeholders.
Demonstrating the above is the key to fostering trust. The Edelman report recommends these three strategies:
Join the conversation
Amid the report’s mostly depressing findings is a surprisingly positive one: Even as trust in traditional forms of media plummets, trust in “owned media,” or content created by businesses, is actually on the rise (up 2 basis points since 2012). In that light, producing a blog, podcast, or other social content takes on new importance.
Talk to people, not at them
Consumers are bombarded with appeals for their attention, time, and money. It’s no wonder they tune so much out. When sharing content, successful practices take a more personable approach, answering online questions as if they’re in a consultation, presenting a comforting (but professional) demeanor in videos, etc.
When actually talking to patients, it’s OK to be yourself. According to Edelman, 57% of people consider those who speak spontaneously more believable vs. 43% who prefer rehearsed speech.
Let others tell your story
For the first time, survey respondents said “a person like yourself” is as credible a source for information about a company as a technical or academic expert. In other words, people like to hear from people like themselves.
It’s called “peer trust,” and you build it by soliciting and sharing reviews, having a diverse before and after gallery — more diversity lets more people find people like themselves — and encouraging employees and other advocates to tell your story for you.
In today’s unsettling times, businesses are uniquely suited to step up as governments, media, and other institutions falter. By operating ethically, offering quality products and services, and listening to customers, they serve as a “retaining wall” that destroys distrust and encourages the alternative.
And when that trust raises patient satisfaction — and, potentially, the quality of care — healthcare providers would be advised to help build it.
The trust crisis demands a new operating model for organizations by which they listen to all stakeholders, provide context on the issues that challenge their lives, engage in dialogue with them, and tap peers, especially employees, to lead communications and advocacy efforts.
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