By Dr. Vesna Cado

July 15, 2021

When people trust, they commit. When committed, they are efficient. When efficient, goals are attained.

Hospitals that are building a culture of trust with their employees, patients, and wider community create long-term relationships and improve the competitive age of their business. HBR reports that high-trust organizations have stronger performance due to higher employees’ productivity, the climate of positive energy, and willingness to collaborate to attain common organizational goals. HBR reports that compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their live, 40% less burnout. Global survey conducted by PwC in 2016 reports that 55% of CEOs have found lack of trust as a threat to their organization’s growth.

In healthcare, creating a safe and supportive atmosphere is essential for making a personal connection, fostering trust and collaboration. Trust between the patient and the medical provider (doctors, nurses, administrators influences patient management outcomes, especially in the treatment of long-term illness, as well as in prevention initiatives. Dr. J.R. Baron, MD, CEO of the American Board of Internal medicine and the ABIM Foundation says: “It was patient’s first visit to my office, and I was 30 minutes late. By the time I saw her, she was understandably furious. Instead of being defensive, I apologized sincerely. She calmed down. We were able to start over and tackle the issue that brought her in. For 20 years, we worked together in sickness and health, as patient and physician. That encounter taught me that people need to be respected and heard in the doctor’s office or the trust needed to care for them will never develop.”2 It requires healthcare providers to devote and act towards patients the same way they would like to be treated. Patients are vulnerable customers, and they want to be heard, understood, and engaged. Hospitals that build their strategies to meet emotional and physical needs of their patients by practicing Patient Experience philosophy, will gain patients’ trust and higher business performance. Because as a famous American poetes says: “People will forget what you said and did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Trust during Covid-19

 Trust factor becomes essential ingredient especially during Covid-19. Patients closely watch and estimate how hospitals cope throughout the crises. They will decide to grand their trust based on: competence (delivering on promises), ethical behavior and social responsibility. According to 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer during Covid-19 organizations can build a new level of connection with customers or lose the relationship forever. Over one third of customers prioritized new brands only because of their innovative and compassionate response to the crisis. By contrast, the report states that 71% of customers say if they perceive that a brand puts profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever. This is also mirrored in the employees’ need for physical and emotional protection in the workplace and in society. The emotional, mental, and financial support that hospitals offer to their medical and administrative staff and wider community ensures loyalty and dedication.4 According to a recent Google study, positive working environment where managers express concern for employee’s personal well-being stimulates higher organizational performance.3

Whether trust can be digitalized in healthcare?

 Digitalization represents both treat and opportunity, especially for human interactions. Healthcare providers are forced to reinvent their operational and communication strategies to address physical and emotional needs of patients, employees, and wider community at the same time. Physician visits via computer or phone, remote monitoring, or digital health apps, got a tremendous boost during Covid-19 and will continue to evolve deeper in medical services.  Trustful relationships between patients and providers might be under threat. A large survey study assessing patients’ experiences with virtual visits in a diverse patient population, has found that Patient-clinician engagement in virtual visits is comparable with in-person visits and hit high patient experience score.5

Additionally, recent research on quality of virtual care conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University Health, shows that virtual care reduces missing appointments by 5% compared to time before Covid-19. Obviously, healthcare providers have to consider virtual care as a serious partner in creating, trustful and long-lasting relationships with all stakeholders. However, rapid and advanced use of innovative digital tools seriously endangers facets of trustful relationships through mechanisms of privacy, security, and accountability. HBR reports that Governments, corporations, and other relevant authorities should invest joint efforts to fight massive hacks, tracking of digital activities and locations, to control security over valuable resources and data available to malicious actors, and to create legal frameworks that hold businesses and institutions accountable for their identity or operations. Definitely, the new reality will bring new frontiers for competitiveness for all actors involved in healthcare.

Dr. Vesna Cado, is a Co-founder & Managing partner at Eye Hospital Sistina Oftalmologija / Researcher / International University of Monaco