The Power of Trust in Healthcare and How Technology Enables It

The fundamental question in patient relationship management: How much do patients trust you?

It’s a very big question. When’s the last time you asked it?


Patient satisfaction is so closely tied with trust that it would be a mistake to ignore that aspect of the patient relationship. And, as we’ve previously written, securing a positive outcome in regards to patient satisfaction can have a positive impact on your practice’s revenue. If you want to take deliberate actions to improve patient trust, you first have to identify where that trust comes from.


Lee N. Newcomer, oncologist and Chief Medical Officer of United HealthCare Corporation, defined trust in medicine as a combination of two source factors, as perceived by the patient:

  1. Whether the physician and medical institution are competent to make a diagnosis and treatment
  2. Whether the physician and medical institution will act in the best interest of the patient

Considering the Hippocratic credo, “Do no harm,” it’s generally assumed that physicians and other healthcare professionals will successfully fulfill these trust criteria just by doing their regular work. But the modern patient, particularly in the millennial demographic, has a slightly different expectation with the way care is delivered.

These younger generations have been raised with the perception that technology can often deliver the answers they need when humans cannot. So – from the patient’s perspective – what sounds more trustworthy: seeing a trained and experienced doctor, or seeing a trained and experienced doctor who is empowered by technology right in the exam room? Aside from instant access to information, healthcare technology can also facilitate self-care and remote communication, two factors that are highly valued in present-day care.

Here are a few reasons why technology acts as a trust builder in patient relationship management:

Leverage the Most Recent Medical Research

The Internet and its near-infinite information resources aren’t just perceived as helpful in an exam setting. Newly published research regarding diagnosis techniques, treatment plans, pharmaceutical testing, and more are available through subscriptions to medical journals or through public portals, like the NIH research archives. The iTunes App Store even has a whole category specifically dedicated to apps for medical use because of the rise in mobile use in care settings.

These quick reference tools help ensure providers can deliver an accurate and rapid response to patient questions. As a result, they usually help them wrap up an appointment sooner without sacrificing care quality. Mobile reference apps can also bring an element of engagement to the exam, too, allowing doctors to feel involved by “pulling up the information” together for assessment.

Maximizing Care Through Efficiency

In a previous article, we reviewed four common factors that tend to slow things down in a medical practice. Technology can provide a solution for, or at least contribute to solving, all of them. Now, we’re not talking about doctor productivity here, but trust. How exactly does making an exam shorter contribute to trust?

It shows that, as a physician, you value the patient’s time.

Most patients have to schedule their appointments around work hours, family activities, and countless other tasks. For most people, going to the doctor’s office is an errand. If you can lean on technology to administer the same level of care, but get things like administrative activities done more quickly, patient relationship management becomes far easier.

Get in Touch More Easily

Clear and timely communication is going to serve multiple purposes in patient relationship management. Not only will it be a trust-builder by showing that you care about your patient outside of the exam room, but it will help you secure patient loyalty, too. Many EHR systems allow you to schedule appointments and then send out automatic reminders by email when the date draws near.

Another option for communication may be to have telehealth appointments, which are check-ins via video chat. About 60% of millennials would like to see telehealth incorporated into their care plan to maximize convenience and cut down on travel. This could be another tool to bolster patient loyalty since patients who move to a new home can still stay in touch with a trusted physician. While there are web-based video platforms available like Skype or Facetime, a number of options have emerged with a specific focus on video-based health.

Put the Power in Their Hands

Getting your patient more involved in their own care can open up new dialogue in the relationship. When patients are able to research and review treatment plans for themselves, they tend to ask more questions and divulge more information. That additional information can be incredibly useful to the provider and ultimately adds to care quality.

You probably shouldn’t make it a policy with your patient to check WebMD first and then come ask questions, but there are reliable reference apps out there that you can vet and then recommend to your patient. Apps aren’t just reserved for research, either. Some software can provide guides for self-checkups or help patients make calculations, such as an app for diabetics that can be used to track blood sugar levels or set reminders for glucose administration.

While many different healthcare-focused software are making an impact on patient relationship management, they’re commonly being delivered on mobile devices.

To learn more about the rise of mobile technology in healthcare and how you can best leverage it in your practice, click here to download a free eBook on the topic.

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