How patients' trust relates to their involvement in medical care

J Fam Pract. 2005 Apr;54(4):344-52.


Objectives: To examine the connection between patients' trust and their attitudes toward seeking care, participating in medical decision making, and adhering to treatment recommendations.

Methods: Data were collected from a national telephone survey of English-speaking adults (N=553) in 1999. Eligibility requirements were some type of public or private health care coverage and having seen a physician or other health professional at least twice in the past 2 years. Five questions on preferred role in medical care were asked. Trust in physicians and satisfaction with care were separately measured using validated scales.

Results: The most significant predictor of patients' preferred role in medical care is trust in the medical profession. Views also varied by sex, age, health, education, income, number of visits/years with physician, past dispute with a physician, and satisfaction with care, but many of these bivariate associations were no longer significant in multivariate regression models. Views varied slightly by trust in the specific physician. There were no racial differences.

Conclusions: A strong connection exists between patients' preferred involvement in medical care and trust in the medical profession, but only a slight connection with trust in their own physician. Increased trust in physicians generally is associated with greater willingness to seek care, to follow recommendations of physicians, and to grant them decisional authority. Higher trust in a specific physician is strongly associated only with greater reported adherence. Although higher trust in the medical profession appears to entail a more deferential role by patients, higher trust is also consistent with more active patient roles such as seeking care and adhering to treatment regimens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Trust / psychology*
  • United States