Trust—Doctor, You Have It

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The fact that trust cannot be purchased highlights an important truth: trust needs to be earned. And healthcare professionals have earned it.

Healthcare professions are associated with honesty.

In the 16th annual Gallup Poll of most and least trusted professions, 82% of respondents think nurses have high or very high honesty and ethical standards, ahead of military officers with 71%. Grade school teachers come third with 66% saying they are highly trustworthy. Medical doctors and pharmacists both scoring high with an excess of 60% saying they have high or very high honesty and ethical standards.


Trust Earned

Compare this with business executives, the people that are largely behind those bureaucratic impediments. Only 16% of responders indicated they trust business executives.You can’t purchase trust, and no matter how good a physician’s website, blog, advertising, and public relations, healthcare has earned the trust of the majority of Americans. And that speaks volume about how the profession conducts itself. Despite efforts a public press that looks for scandal and corruption and is happy to highlight physicians behaving badly, the public trust remains strong.

At the same time, it also means that patients have high expectations as to how healthcare professionals conduct themselves and their small or large practice. They are prepared to give their trust in return for being open and honest with providers.

Trust Is a Matter of Communication

The fact that trust cannot be purchased also highlights an important truth that trust needs to be earned. To further this “trustworthiness” discussion, it is important that we examine the factor that establishes trust, how physicians are able to cater to it and further improve their status, and why nurses are better at it.The first factor that not only facilitates trust but also garners trust—may it be any relationship, professional or personal—is communication. It is of paramount importance that there is effective communication. Which simply means that the intended message is received by the desired party and is understood exactly the way it was intended to be. Physicians have a lot at stake in this particular factor.

Physicians cater to numerous patients and have the challenge of explaining health issues to the patient and making him or her aware of resources will be involved. In all of this, what is important is to make sure that there is honesty involved. Nothing will damage that trusting relationship more than actions that the patient may perceive as taking advantage of him or her.

Fiduciary responsibility

Regrettably, this happens when there is lack of communicators or breakdowns in communications about their care or the financial aspects of their care. Physicians who don’t know what they are talking about or who are exploiting the patient’s resources don’t fare well. So, complete transparency in terms of communication with the patient is required to ensure a satisfactory level of trust.Maintaining trust requires openness about patient financial responsibilities. The days of “not your responsibility” are over. This is known as fiduciary responsibility. This responsibility is not only concerned with administration duties but also an ethical point of view. At any given opportunity, money is 1 of the factors where the true capability of trust is measured. A provider would not want to make an impression that an increase in care is not for sincere reasons. Physicians need to give an apt solution that is affordable and does not create a perception that a particular patient is being manipulated for revenue maximization.

Last Word

The information a physician communicates externally is only as good as the internal communication. The office needs to be trained to be upfront about patient costs. What plans is the office contracted with? What the patient’s copay and deductible responsibilities are? No patient should be surprised about their bill, like finding out that “accepting their insurance” actually means the office is not contracted, meaning the patient has no coverage. Know, as well, if there are any routine services that the office provides that are not covered by a patient’s plan, and make sure the patient knows about the cost, and the medical necessity before the service is provided.In conclusion, while the medical profession has taken hits for the failings of the health system and its rising costs, physicians are still accorded a high level of trust. This speaks to the integrity of the individual physician in his or her relationship with patients.

Trust is a valuable commodity, and once lost, cannot be regained.