(Un)conditional trust in the healthcare sector?

By Peter van der Voort | January 27, 2015 | 2 min read

Healthcare professionals have to make sure their clients trust them, because that essential ingredient of healthcare is no longer a given. It was the topic of Peter van der Voort's inaugural address "Trust in Healthcare".

The healthcare sector can only function properly if there are sufficient finances, facilities (equipment, housing, personnel) and if the main focus is on the patient or client. Patient focus receives much attention at the moment. After all, healthcare is developing towards more customer-focused or even customer-driven organisations. And the workplace itself receives explicit demands to pay attention to the patient or client as a human being. A human being that has to learn how to deal with the limitations of (chronic) illness and old age.

Extra training in helping people?

Odd, that focusing on the human being needs so much emphasis. Didn't we all start working in healthcare because we have the intrinsic motivation to help our fellow human beings? Have we wandered so far from our moral compass, that we need extra training in this? Perhaps it helps when we understand why this focus is so important. The attention for patients as people (humanity centered care) gives them the trust they need to enable us health professionals to do our job properly. And we need that trust. After all, the most valuable things we have, our body and our children, they (literally) put in our hands.

But that is only possible when people trust the quality of care is good and the care givers have the right intention. That they have integrity, credibility, that they are just and reliable. These elements of trust have to be found, not only in the care givers, but in the health organisation and even in the health system as a whole and indirectly, the government. And care givers have to trust each other to be able to use each other's expertise. Trust is the fuel of healthcare.

From unconditional to conditional trust

In the past, trust in care givers and the government was unconditional. But these days, we rarely hear: 'whatever you say, doctor, you studied for it'. Patients decide and we, as health professionals, advise. The trust is implied, but we have to make sure the trust continues to exist; a conditional trust. The transition in healthcare also follows the shift from unconditional to conditional trust. As long as we show we are earning their trust, it will continue to exist, but we have to work on that. This means being transparent and accountable and adding focus. Managers and (non-executive) directors have their own role to play in this, as have the professionals in the workplace. The conditions for success are self-reflection and communication.

We, as health professionals and organisations, have to show that we look at ourselves critically and that we base our choices on this. Intensive communication with our customers and patients about what we stand for and what we achieve, is essential to keep trust alive. And if we succeed, something beautiful is created that is priceless between people and in society: trust.

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