Physicians, patients lost trust in US healthcare system amid pandemic, survey finds

By | May 25, 2021

Dive Brief:

  • Physician trust in the U.S. healthcare system significantly declined during the pandemic, along with their confidence in the leaders and executives at the healthcare organizations employing them, according to a report from the nonpartisan research group NORC at the University of Chicago commissioned by the ABIM Foundation.
  • The poll found that 30% of physicians do not trust their healthcare organizations’ leadership and even fewer trust industry executives in general.
  • Consumer respondents said they generally trust doctors and nurses more than they trust health systems, and 32% said their trust in the healthcare system declined during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dive Insight:

Healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis spent months grappling with conflicting information from government agencies and their employers that chipped away at their confidence in the healthcare system overall. Among physicians surveyed, 43% said their trust in government healthcare agencies decreased during the pandemic.

The lack of transparency and open communication is also a major contributor to widespread burnout reported among the workforce, according to a February report from the Joint Commission.

Nearly the same amount of physician and consumer respondents in NORC’s report, 30% and 32% respectively, said they lost trust in the healthcare system during the pandemic. But physicians and consumers alike said they felt respected by and trusted one another.

Overall, 75% of consumer respondents said the pandemic has not changed their level of trust in their own doctors.

Researchers surveyed 600 physicians and just over 2,000 consumers in January and February to gauge their sentiments of each other and their perceptions of healthcare organizations.

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There were some points of disagreement however. Physicians also said they understand the importance of building trust with their patients, though patients said trust-building behavior is lacking. While 98% of physicians said that spending an appropriate amount of time with patients is important, only 77% of patients think their doctor spends an appropriate amount of time with them.

And trust in hospitals specifically is higher among the public (72%) compared to physicians (60%).

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