Healthcare Experience Blog

Trust: The missing ingredient in American healthcare?

Ten years of survey results paint a dismal picture. Hospitals don’t trust health plans. Physicians don’t trust health plans. And health plans register only a nominally higher rate of trust in hospitals and physicians.

Now, in the 11th year of surveying, our latest results show that consumers also have a low level of trust in both health systems and health plans. Even doctors don’t fare much better in the eyes of today’s consumers.

How do we know this? The evidence comes from the one-of-a-kind Trust Index™ survey* that we conduct in partnership with ReviveHealth—a full-service agency focused on the intersection of healthcare delivery, finance, and innovation.

We track trust by asking the various parties to rate each other on three core dimensions:

  • Honesty
  • Reliability
  • Fairness

Consistently, fairness gets the lowest ratings—which is defined in the survey as “this organization balances its interests with mine/ours and doesn’t routinely take advantage of me/us.”

Low trust among the players means more friction in the relationships, bad feelings on all sides, and added costs. Consumers feel the pain as they try to get their procedures and medications approved, find doctors who will spend enough time with them, and deal with the complexities of multiple bills for a single episode of care. No wonder many people feel that the patient experience falls woefully short of what they expect or want.

Healthcare is under tremendous pressure as an industry. It must contend with:

Confusing messages from the Washington agencies that regulate and pay for over 50% of all care
Increasing demands from consumers who wonder why healthcare can’t be like other businesses they deal with
Earth-shaking disruptions caused by technology start-ups and medical science breakthroughs

Is it any wonder that the transition from volume (paying providers more for performing more procedures) to value (paying fixed amounts for a given procedure/outcome) is moving as slowly as it is?

Perhaps the most revealing sign of the times is that consumer trust in the American healthcare industry is so low. In fact, 63% of the individuals we surveyed said that if they were a U.S. Senator, they would vote “yes” on a bill to provide “Medicare for All.”

The evidence is in. Trust in healthcare is low—and it’s not getting better.

Closing the trust gap

Just because trust in healthcare is low doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to improve it. Here are five ways you can start closing the gap with your patients.

1. Know where you stand
Figure out where your organization stands on key issues within the industry, and the size and nature of the gap in trust with your key stakeholders.

2. Think differently about your payor/provider relationship
Be flexible in your approach to these relationships and willing to take risks. Reducing risk-aversion will help facilitate a transition to value-based care within the industry.

3. Start small, then build and scale up
Any progress on the trust issue appears to be based on progress toward pay-for-quality initiatives. 76% of health systems executives and 64% of health plan executives cited pay-for-quality programs as the most popular strategy for making the shift from volume to value.

4. Partners to deliver relevant, trustworthy data
Providers say lack of technologies and processes holds them back from a more rapid transition to value-based payment arrangements—which includes access to timely, reliable, and actionable data.

5. Owning the moments that matter
Improving trust starts with better communication among health systems, health plans, and front-line physicians—which will help improve the patient experience and consumer trust in the healthcare system as a whole.

Putting these strategies into action can help you bridge the trust gap in your organization—which can help you build better employee, patient, and stakeholder relationships.

Want to learn more about trust in healthcare? Watch the full webinar here.



*The Trust Index™ online survey process consisted of four separate surveys and was conducted during the summer of 2017 by Catalyst Healthcare Research, an SMG company. Respondents were obtained from lists maintained by ReviveHealth and from public sample sources.

About ReviveHealth

ReviveHealth, a Weber Shandwick company, is a full-service agency focused on the intersection of healthcare delivery, finance, and innovation. We know the business of healthcare inside and out. We identify and solve complex challenges. We recognize patterns and anticipate trends. And we help our clients own the moments that matter.

A new day at Catalyst Healthcare Research | Our SMG partnership

As you might have heard, the past month brought some big news for us at Catalyst Healthcare Research (CHR). On August 1, we were acquired by Service Management Group (SMG). Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time answering two main questions, both of which afford me the opportunity to deliver good news:

What’s going to stay the same?
When things like this happen, clients understandably get a little wary of how they’ll be affected. Fortunately, our new partnership will have minimal impact on how we serve our clients. We’re still the same company, and our team remains intact, which means clients will continue to benefit from our in-depth healthcare experience, extensive HIPAA-compliant research expertise, and commitment to delivering actionable insights.

Of course, you don’t make a move like this in an effort to maintain business as usual. As with any decision we make, one of the major determining factors was the potential long-term benefit for our clients—which brings us to the second question.

What’s going to change?
A major trend right now is the increasing “retailization” of the healthcare industry, which means that organizations are beginning to see—and serve—patients more as true consumers. Convenience matters. Cost matters. Experience matters. The ramifications of this trend obviously reach our clients, who have to make sure they deliver patient experiences that inspire loyalty and uphold their reputations as leading healthcare providers. That’s where SMG comes in.

Partnering with more than 450 brands across a variety of service industries, SMG helps clients measure and improve customer and employee experiences in ways that drive loyalty and revenues. With more than 150 client insights professionals and 25 advanced-degree researchers on staff, SMG offers an invaluable wealth of knowledge our clients will be able to draw on as the healthcare industry mirrors the retail model more and more.

Just as importantly, SMG combines that insight expertise with an industry-leading data collection, warehousing, and reporting technology platform. That makes it easy for people to complete surveys, for internal researchers to analyze the data, and for clients to access and share the data with real-time dashboards, configurable reports, and even an industry-leading mobile reporting app. In short, our clients will be able to hear from more consumers and take action on their feedback more quickly than ever before.

A mutually beneficial partnership

Having entered the healthcare space in 2011 with a ratings and review site based on patient surveys, SMG already works with a number of clients that incorporate healthcare-related services into their retail operations. With ongoing and significant consolidation across the healthcare ecosystem, they knew it couldn’t be a better time to expand within the space. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2025, 1 in every 5 dollars in the U.S. will be spent on healthcare services. The SMG-CHR partnership offers significant benefits for both companies, and we can’t wait to see what it means for our current and future clients.

If you’d like to learn more about our new partner, I’d encourage you to start here.

Dan Prince
Vice President, Customer Engagement

Americans Believe that Healthy Eating Matters

According to a national study we did jointly with ad agency ndp, almost 3 out of 4 Americans believe that they should eat healthy foods and meals. They know that this matters, in terms of their own health. They told us so.

Yet, CDC statistics confirm the fact that at least two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

The contradiction is startling, and if the trend line in terms of obesity is not reversed, we’re on our way toward even higher levels of heart disease and diabetes.

In our study, which focused on what consumers have to say on the general topic of “population health,” 71% selected eating healthy foods as one of the three most important ways to maintain or improve their own health. We also learned that 62% consider regular exercise an important contributor to better health. Click here to see the infographic that summarizes key results.

Our results show that, overall, a majority of people know what’s right–and yet have difficulty eating and exercising in ways that would increase their health, wellbeing, and longevity.

What’s holding us back, as individuals and society? My thoughts:

• Habits. Once set, they are hard to break. I drank sweet tea with lunch for years, until I realized this was something I needed to forego. Now, it’s water, at least most days!

• Anxiety/Stress. Under pressure, we often resort to eating comfort foods and reaching for drinks that may have lots of calories and/or sugar (wine, cookies). In my case, it’s chocolate that’s a magnet.

• Expense. Healthier foods often do cost more. Checked the price of fresh spinach lately? Or salmon, plucked from the sea? Healthier forms of lettuce cost more than basic iceberg. Cost is an obstacle for many in our country.

• Advertising. I’ve not seen a study, but I’m guessing that the amount of money spent on advertising products like soft drinks, chips, beer, etc. far outweighs that spent on buying fresh produce, farm-raised beef and other healthier choices.

• Societal Cues. Think about what we see in the movies, on television, and elsewhere. For example, how often is an actor portrayed drinking some form of alcohol?

While consumers see an important role for themselves in maintaining or improving their own health, we all seem to need help in actually exhibiting the behaviors that lead in that direction.

Survey results above are from A Consumer’s View of Population Health, an online study of just over 1,000 adults.  It was funded jointly by Catalyst Healthcare Research and ndp.

Our Study Shows More People, More Attention Devoted to Patient Experience

In 2011, only 13% of respondents to a biannual survey of hospital leaders said their organization had a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) with responsibility for overseeing patient experience improvements. That figure grew to 22% in 2013, and to 42% in 2015, and to 58% in the most recent results (2017).

That dramatic increase is accompanied by other stats that show how healthcare organizations are attempting to become more patient-centric. For example, the number of respondents from U.S. hospitals indicating that their organization has a formal patient & family advisory council jumped from 32% in 2013 to 62% this year. This is in addition to input they get from formal surveying approaches.

Obtaining direct and immediate feedback from hospital patients while they are in the hospital is another indicator that an increasing number of healthcare leaders are serious about hearing the voice of their customer. The number of U.S. hospitals reporting the use of bedside surveying grew from 42% in 2011 to 47% in 2017.

All of these results come from a recurring survey process initiated by The Beryl Institute in partnership with our firm Catalyst Healthcare Research. Surveys from 2011 through 2017 document what hospitals and other healthcare organizations have been doing to understand, measure, and improve the patient experience. They are the largest studies of their kind in the world.

To learn more about how Patient Experience is being addressed both within the U.S. and globally, visit The Beryl Institute or download a summary of the 2017 results here. It’s an impressive picture.

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