How Healthcare Can Solve Its Trust Problem

Cofounder & CEO of PointClickCare, a leading healthcare technology platform enabling meaningful collaboration across the care continuum.

There is a fundamental trust problem in healthcare, and I believe now is the time for those in the industry to dismantle it.

This problem exists not only between care providers and organizations but between caregivers and patients, too. We can’t solve the former without also solving the latter. Collaboration and sharing information is key to improving health in our communities, and it begins with building a foundation of trust between healthcare stakeholders.

A lack of trust, collaboration and data-sharing between providers inevitably worsens outcomes, particularly for patients transitioning between care settings.

An Ecosystem of Mistrust

Recent research shows the depth of the problem: In addition to an overall decline in physicians’ trust in healthcare leaders, there also appears to be a major disconnect between how physicians and the public perceive trust in the U.S. healthcare system. The research found that while physicians understand and appreciate the importance of fostering trust with patients, the patients simply don’t believe that they are taking the steps necessary to build this trust.

Further, in a survey of 1,000 U.S. healthcare consumers, my company recently uncovered that the majority of consumers (85%) think physicians should be more focused on providing quality care rather than the number of patients they’re able to see. And, when it comes to health plans and providers, there is an inherent lack of trust and misalignment. Unfortunately, we’re at a point where healthcare providers are not invested in sharing patient data due to a mistrust of how payers will use it, including as a way to reduce reimbursements versus adding value to patient care.

This has created a toxic environment where models are disguised as value-based care. For value-based care models to succeed, payers and providers must work collaboratively to understand each other’s needs, identify gaps in care, promote high-quality care and reduce costs.

The truth is that the healthcare continuum is one of the most complicated systems for patients and providers to navigate. While organizations have made progress toward efficiency, the full value of data exchange has not yet been realized. All stakeholders across the care continuum have a part to play in restoring the trust that has eroded.

Digitize To Cultivate Trust

A major challenge for acute and post-acute care settings is a lack of timely information to proactively manage patient care. Physicians, nurses and care teams work tirelessly to coordinate transitions and care decisions, but they’re often doing so with out-of-date or incomplete information—or worse, no information at all.

The most important step we can take to foster trust and transparency across the spectrum is to remove the barriers between healthcare providers. To achieve this, organizations must digitize systems and operations to more freely collaborate, communicate and give all stakeholders visibility into their patient data. In addition to—and as a result of—digitization, organizations must measure their own progress and be held accountable by other stakeholders for their unique role in improving trust in the healthcare system. This self-reflection is key to making sure there is transparency and trust in how information is shared digitally.

And while there are many hurdles to achieving this, the end result is that caregivers in all health settings get all the necessary background, context and details on their patients at the point of care or, better yet, before they arrive for care. This empowers clinicians with insights to improve outcomes and quality of life for patients, reinforcing a sense of trust along the continuum.

Unfortunately, I predict that only a small percentage of healthcare organizations will get on board and seed real change. It may take action by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to mandate those organizations that fall behind change their ways.

But you should not let it get to this point; providers must recognize the benefits and take ownership of the operational shifts needed. They have an opportunity to act on sharing patient data now without regulatory pressure. Not only is it the right thing to do, but being an early adopter can enhance an organization’s reputation and network value.

Connection To Health Equity

Inequalities when it comes to accessing quality care also play a large role in the overall trust dynamic.

Consumer and community trust in healthcare providers is critical for achieving optimal health and improving patient experience and outcomes. The reality is that not all communities feel the same level of trust in their healthcare providers. We continue to observe large disparities in trust based on race and ethnicity, and social determinants of health continue to have a substantial impact on quality of care, priority of care and health outcomes. These are concerns you, as a healthcare provider, should address directly.

We also see a disconnect between the senior population and the rest of the healthcare continuum. The technology gap between hospitals and long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) settings, in particular, makes care transitions difficult and potentially more dangerous for residents. I believe that by enhancing collaboration and trust between organizations, providers can improve quality of care and become empowered to address these disparities more effectively.

Technology As a Path Forward

The right information at the right time can help bridge the gaps and restore trust between healthcare stakeholders. Organizations already have access to the technology necessary to reclaim this trust; they just aren’t using it in this capacity.

As we look forward, we all hold the keys to restoring trust and, subsequently, improving overall patient safety and outcomes. As part of this, providers can digitize operations and more effectively share valuable patient data to increase visibility and improve decision making. Over time, these insights will help providers deliver more positive patient experiences, boost health outcomes and reestablish trust in all facets of healthcare.


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