Researching medical trust in the United States

J Health Organ Manag. 2006;20(5):456-67. doi: 10.1108/14777260610701812.


Purpose: This article reviews research in the U.S.A. bearing on trust in physicians and medical institutions.

Design/methodology/approach: This article provides a conceptual analysis, and general review of the literature.

Findings: Empirical research of medical trust is burgeoning in the U.S.A., and a fairly clear conceptual model of interpersonal physician trust has emerged. However, most studies focus on individual patients and their physicians, due to the highly individualistic attitudes that prevail in the U.S.A. Lacking are studies of more social dimensions of trust in broader medical institutions. A conceptual model of trust is presented to help draw these relevant distinctions, and to review the US literature. Also presented are the full set of trust scales, developed at Wake Forest University, which follow this conceptual model. These conceptual categories may differ, however, in other languages and cultures.

Originality/value: The considerable body of research in the USA on patients' trust in individual physicians should help inform and focus international efforts to study social trust in medical institutions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans
  • Patients / psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Research*
  • Trust*
  • United States