Leaders Are Restoring Trust In Healthcare—But How?

As healthcare systems face increasing societal scrutiny and criticism, restoring trust is critical to improving public health. According to a study, if mistrust goes unchecked, it can erode physician-patient relationships and effectuate poorer patient outcomes and prevalent burnout among doctors.

Healthcare leaders have taken steps to address this issue. For example, many organizations now utilize customer experience metrics to measure the quality and trustworthiness of their services. But has it made a difference?

The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer concluded that public trust in healthcare systems is, in fact, declining. This is problematic for a variety of reasons. First, patients may be less likely to seek medical help if they distrust the system. Second, physicians may be discouraged from providing care due to negative public opinion.

Disparities in how healthcare systems treated different races, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds during the pandemic caused distrust between medical professionals and health institutions, concluded a study. Research published by Deloitte affirmed that “Lack of trust in health care remains an issue, particularly among individuals who identify as Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American.”

Furthermore, a large majority of Americans believe that access to quality care is primarily determined by income level, leading to doubts about the fairness of healthcare systems. This belief can be attributed to the vast inequalities in coverage between those who have health insurance and those who do not: 46 million people cannot afford needed care, according to research published by Gallup. This lack of access can lead to poorer health outcomes, further eroding public trust in healthcare, which begs the question: What can be done to increase public trust? Research published by Harvard Business Review examined this question and proposed five strategies leaders can adopt to improve public confidence in healthcare.

Support the move to value-based care
As healthcare progresses, the fee-for-service model should be gradually phased out and replaced with value-based payment models emphasizing quality patient care over quantity. Through prepaid, value-based healthcare models, organizations can become more adaptable in delivering higher levels of medical service and response times during public crises. But, for such models to be successful, organizations must prioritize transparent communication between patients and providers. As James Mountford, the director of quality at the Royal Free London hospital, said in an interview, “The shift from volume to value represents a fundamental rethinking of health systems worldwide. Value can only be defined by what matters to patients and populations, and working towards it puts patients, staff and those funding health systems—taxpayers in the case of the NHS—on the same side.”

Reimagine the public health infrastructure
Establish a public healthcare technology platform to facilitate communication among government and private healthcare institutions, enabling them to quickly access real-time data about emergency department visits, hospital admissions, and fatalities of those with Covid-19 or any other public health crises. This platform can act as a data repository for public health information, allowing the government to monitor overall population health and target resources for medical care more efficiently. A study discovered that 38% of people had experienced an unsatisfactory healthcare encounter caused by incorrect information on their insurance company’s website: a very concerning statistic. Consequently, healthcare companies need to invest in reliable public health technology that can be used to improve communication between patients and providers, as well as monitor population health.