Surveys of Trust in the U.S. Health Care System

The NORC-ABIM Foundation poll is a national perspective of consumers’ and physicians’ trust in the U.S. health care system and how COVID affected how physicians gauge trust.

The ABIM Foundation has focused much time and attention on trust in healthcare through its Building Trust annual conferences. Given the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on our lives, this year presents an opportunity to understand the causes of distrust and how health care leaders can gain back trust in different areas of the system. Consistent with the Building Trust Initiative, the ABIM Foundation sought to measure ways to improve the relationships between patients and their clinicians, as well as between clinicians and health system employers.

NORC surveyed the consumers’ and physicians’ opinions and attitudes on trust in the U.S. health care system, with a special focus on the impact COVID-19 has on the relationship between providers and their patients. The two surveys show stark differences in how physicians and patients view aspects of trust-building practices. NORC produced results that were extensively tested and were statistically significant.

Much of the existing literature studies patients’ trust in doctors, but there are fewer studies and public option research within and among doctors and the health system. The physician survey had a large sample of physicians (n=600 physician) - better than many peer-reviewed publications that include smaller samples of doctors. The ABIM Foundation plans to identify potential solutions to recent trends that show decreases in trust across healthcare stakeholder groups.

NORC-ABIM Foundation poll shows gaps in public’s trust in health care systems and clinicians—and how COVID affected how physicians gauge trust. This new research shows a significant decline in physicians’ trust in leaders of health care systems during the COVID-19 pandemic, and notable differences between how physicians and the public perceive trust in U.S. health care. Physicians understand the importance of building trust with patients, but patients say trust-building behavior is lacking.

The research was conducted between Dec. 29, 2020 and Feb. 5, 2021. The physician survey is a non-probability sample of 600 physicians. The consumer survey conducted by AmeriSpeak is a probability based sample of 2,069 respondents with oversamples for Black, Hispanic, and Asian respondents and has a margin of error of +/- 3.15 percentage points.

The ABIM Foundation released the research to coincide with the launch of Building Trust, a national effort that focuses on increasing trust between patients, physicians and other stakeholders. NORC will also present the research findings at the 2021 AcademyHealth Research Meeting.

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