Jan 4, 2022
Annie Zhang

Why is patient trust crucial for doctor-patient relationships?

Why is patient trust crucial for doctor-patient relationships?

When patients seek healthcare treatment, the amount of trust that they have in their doctor is hugely influential. Trust is required in every step of the process, from having patients confide personal and sensitive health information to submitting to medical tests and recommended treatments.

Patient trust has been shown to have a significant influence on patients’ behaviors. Research studies have found that patients who have higher trust in their doctors are more likely to disclose personal information, adhere to their medications, and feel less anxious about their treatments (1). They’re also more likely to feel more satisfied about their treatment and even experience better health outcomes (2). Therefore, building trust with patients should be a top priority for any healthcare provider. 

How exactly can providers improve their relationships with their patients through trust? Here are the most important factors that influence patient trust:

  1. Knowledgeability and reliability
    Patients are more likely to trust their provider if they perceive them to be knowledgeable and highly familiar with their conditions (1). This could lead to patients being more likely to confide in them about sensitive information and believe that they can treat them successfully.
    However, when it comes to the Internet, patients can run into problems. In the age of social media, there are no guarantees that online health information is always reliable and coming from a healthcare professional. An online healthcare platform that only allows verified healthcare professionals to post healthcare information would be extremely beneficial for patients.
  1. Cultural competency
    Sociocultural determinants have been shown to play a significant role in patient trust. Many patients say that they are more likely to trust their providers if they are culturally competent and have shared backgrounds, identities, life experiences, and/or languages. They believe that these providers can create safer and more comfortable environments for them and are more likely to take their problems seriously (3). One potential solution for this is to give patients options to interact with the providers they feel the most connected to.
  2. Effective communication skills 
    Strong interpersonal and communication skills are crucial for building doctor-patient relationships. It has been shown that a patient’s trust in their provider, as well as their level of satisfaction, is influenced by how their provider communicates with them (2). It is extremely important for providers to provide patients and families with clear and unambiguous information, as well as demonstrate empathy, honesty, and active listening skills (1). 
  3. Respect and confidentiality
    Finally, patients are more likely to trust their doctors if they believe that they respect them, show empathy, and truly care about their problems enough to take them seriously and listen to what they have to say (1). They are also more likely to trust their doctors if they believe that their information will be kept completely confidential (1).

An all-in-one solution: Tell Health

When it comes to building trust with patients, Tell Health’s digital healthcare application–a free HIPAA-compliant social platform for patients and providers–has been designed to address all of the aforementioned factors in building patient trust. For example, on the app, only verified, qualified medical providers can post public announcements containing educational health information. This allows patients to receive reliable information from a trustworthy source. Tell Health has also focused on facilitating the use of their app for providers who primarily serve patients from their own local communities. Finally, Tell Health’s secure text messaging application facilitates simple, jargon-free communication between patients and providers.

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  1. Allinson M., Chaar B., "How to build and maintain trust with patients." The Pharmaceutical Journal. November 15, 2016.
  2. Chandra S., Mohammadnezhad M., Ward P. "Trust and Communication in a Doctor-Patient Relationship: A Literature Review." Journal of Healthcare Communications (2018), Vol. 3, No. 3:36.  
  3. Read L., Korenda L., Nelson H. "Rebuilding trust in health care." Deloitte. August 5, 2021.