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Building trust in healthcare during times of transition

The deep roots never doubt spring will come

Marty Rubin

In the world of healthcare, trust is often the outcome of several interactions between a physician and their patient. It is the foundation of an effective patient-provider relationship.  

Why is building trust between a physician and a patient as well as within an organization necessary? 

  • A patient’s trust in their physician can enable them to adhere to treatment plans and improve their outcomes.
  • Patients who trust their physicians tend to remain with them or the same healthcare setting.
  • Nurturing trust through effective leadership practice has shown improvements in patient care, quality, innovation, and safety.1
  • Trust within an organization can facilitate better healthcare staff engagement.
  • An individual’s healthcare-seeking behavior is deeply personal. Trust in the safety and efficacy of new models of care in the age of digitization is uncertain. It is therefore imperative to earn and build trust among patients as utilization of digital technologies is going to be a first-time experience for many people.

How can trust be nurtured in the age of digital revolution?

  • Through early patient engagement, physicians can foster mutual trust by providing them access to quality information about their health, their treatment, and introduce them to digital tools.  
  • The need for face to face communication before digital interactions has also been reported in some studies.2
  • Blockchain technology is a collection of technologies that allows a patient to control access to their data. Securing every patient’s data with blockchain can empower patients by giving them the ability to give consent to various users of their data and facilitate interoperability. This also allows them access to who has viewed their records.
  • Stakeholder engagement: One can involve various stakeholders in the digital health ecosystem to gather suggestions and feedback for improvement of the digital health technologies. For this, identification of key stakeholders is the primary step and needs to be followed by a strategy to keep them engaged throughout the planning, and implementation phase. They can be provided clarity with regard to the process and outcomes of utilizing digital tools. This will help in the identification of their concerns, and furthermore, gather insights on the benefits that both patients and physicians expect out of using digital technologies. This will facilitate the redesign of delivery mechanisms tailored to their needs.

Potential unintended consequences could also be identified along with a grievance redressal mechanism in place. These strategies if established earlier within organizations can foster good faith and uphold mutual trust, thereby contributing to better outcomes for patients and physicians in the digital health ecosystem.

Thus, to earn the trust of patients in digital health approaches, one must not simply follow a one-sided approach; rather, it should be a shared objective of various entities and driven by collaboration across sectors.


1)  Atallah A Habahbeh, Murad Abdulrahim Alkhalaileh, Effect of an educational programme on the attitudes towards patient safety of operation room nurses, British Journal of Nursing, 29, 4, 222-228, 2020. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1744-6198.2011.00253.x

2)  Adjekum, Afua & Blasimme, Alessandro & Vayena, Effy. (2018). Elements of Trust in Digital Health Systems: A Scoping Review (Preprint). Journal of Medical Internet Research. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328373003_Elements_of_Trust_in_Digital_Health_Systems_A_Scoping_Review_Preprint

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