Objective: The goal for this study was to assess the relative strength of the association between physician behaviors and patient trust. STUDY DESIGN AND POPULATION: Patients (N=414) enrolled from 20 community-based family practices rated 18 physician behaviors and completed the Trust in Physician Scale immediately after their visits. Trust was also measured at 1 and 6 months after the visit. The association between physician behaviors and trust was examined in regard to patient sex, age, and length of relationship with the physician.
Results: All behaviors were significantly associated with trust (P<.0001), with Pearson correlation coefficients (r) ranging from 0.46 to 0.64. Being comforting and caring, demonstrating competency, encouraging and answering questions, and explaining were associated with trust among all groups. However, referring to a specialist if needed was strongly associated with trust only among women (r=0.61), more established patients (r=0.62), and younger patients (r=0.63). The behaviors least important for trust were gentleness during the examination, discussing options/asking opinions, looking in the eye, and treating as an equal.
Conclusions: Caring and comfort, technical competency, and communication are the physician behaviors most strongly associated with patient trust. Further research is needed to test the hypothesis that changes in identified physician behaviors can lead to changes in the level of patient trust.