Trust: The missing ingredient in American healthcare?

Dan Prince | Dec 5, 2017 Dan Prince 12/05/17

Ten years of survey results paint a dismal picture. Hospitals don’t trust health plans. Physicians don’t trust health plans. And health plans register only a nominally higher rate of trust in hospitals and physicians.

Now, in the 11th year of surveying, our latest results show that consumers also have a low level of trust in both health systems and health plans. Even doctors don’t fare much better in the eyes of today’s consumers.


How do we know this? The evidence comes from the one-of-a-kind Trust Index™ survey* that we conduct in partnership with ReviveHealth—a full-service agency focused on the intersection of healthcare delivery, finance, and innovation.

We track trust by asking the various parties to rate each other on three core dimensions:

  • Honesty
  • Reliability
  • Fairness 

Consistently, fairness gets the lowest ratings—which is defined in the survey as “this organization balances its interests with mine/ours and doesn’t routinely take advantage of me/us.”


Low trust among the players means more friction in the relationships, bad feelings on all sides, and added costs. Consumers feel the pain as they try to get their procedures and medications approved, find doctors who will spend enough time with them, and deal with the complexities of multiple bills for a single episode of care. No wonder many people feel that the patient experience falls woefully short of what they expect or want.

Healthcare is under tremendous pressure as an industry. It must contend with:

  • Confusing messages from the Washington agencies that regulate and pay for over 50% of all care
  • Increasing demands from consumers who wonder why healthcare can’t be like other businesses they deal with
  • Earth-shaking disruptions caused by technology start-ups and medical science breakthroughs

Is it any wonder that the transition from volume (paying providers more for performing more procedures) to value (paying fixed amounts for a given procedure/outcome) is moving as slowly as it is?

Perhaps the most revealing sign of the times is that consumer trust in the American healthcare industry is so low. In fact, 63% of the individuals we surveyed said that if they were a U.S. Senator, they would vote “yes” on a bill to provide “Medicare for All.”

The evidence is in. Trust in healthcare is low—and it’s not getting better.

Closing the trust gap

Just because trust in healthcare is low doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to improve it. Here are five ways you can start closing the gap with your patients.

1. Know where you stand

Figure out where your organization stands on key issues within the industry, and the size and nature of the gap in trust with your key stakeholders.

2. Think differently about your payor/provider relationship

Be flexible in your approach to these relationships and willing to take risks. Reducing risk-aversion will help facilitate a transition to value-based care within the industry.

3. Start small, then build and scale up

Any progress on the trust issue appears to be based on progress toward pay-for-quality initiatives. 76% of health systems executives and 64% of health plan executives cited pay-for-quality programs as the most popular strategy for making the shift from volume to value.

4. Partners to deliver relevant, trustworthy data

Providers say lack of technologies and processes holds them back from a more rapid transition to value-based payment arrangements—which includes access to timely, reliable, and actionable data.

5. Owning the moments that matter
Improving trust starts with better communication among health systems, health plans, and front-line physicians—which will help improve the patient experience and consumer trust in the healthcare system as a whole.

Putting these strategies into action can help you bridge the trust gap in your organization—which can help you build better employee, patient, and stakeholder relationships.

Want to learn more about trust in healthcare? Watch the full webinar here.

Dan Prince
VP, Customer Engagement | Catalyst Healthcare Research


*The Trust Index™ online survey process consisted of four separate surveys and was conducted during the summer of 2017 by Catalyst Healthcare Research, an SMG company. Respondents were obtained from lists maintained by ReviveHealth and from public sample sources.

About ReviveHealth

ReviveHealth, a Weber Shandwick company, is a full-service agency focused on the intersection of healthcare delivery, finance, and innovation. We know the business of healthcare inside and out. We identify and solve complex challenges. We recognize patterns and anticipate trends. And we help our clients own the moments that matter.

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