Background: Patients' trust in their physicians has recently become a focus of concern, largely owing to the rise of managed care, yet the subject remains largely unstudied. We undertook a qualitative research study of patients' self-reported experiences with trust in a physician to gain further understanding of the components of trust in the context of the patient-physician relationship.
Methods: Twenty-nine patients participants, aged 26 to 72, were recruited from three diverse practice sites. Four focus groups, each lasting 1.5 to 2 hours, were conducted to explore patients' experiences with trust. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded by four readers, using principles of grounded theory.
Results: The resulting consensus codes were grouped into seven categories of physician behavior, two of which related primarily to technical competence (thoroughness in evaluation and providing appropriate and effective treatment) and five of which were interpersonal (understanding patient's individual experience, expressing caring, communicating clearly and completely, building partnership/sharing power and honesty/respect for patient). Two additional categories were predisposing factors and structural/staffing factors. Each major category had multiple subcategories. Specific examples from each major category are provided.
Conclusions: These nine categories of physician behavior encompassed the trust experiences related by the 29 patients. These categories and the specific examples provided by patients provide insights into the process of trust formation and suggest ways in which physicians could be more effective in building and maintaining trust.