The Problem

Patient trust is the foundation of positive patient-provider relationships and fundamental for effective treatment. Trust impacts everything from treatment adherence to health outcomes and behaviors to the likelihood of a patient returning to a provider.

Unfortunately, patient distrust in the healthcare system has been growing over the last half century and has, undoubtedly, been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And while patient distrust of their providers has not declined to the degree to which distrust in the system itself has, it has certainly taken a hit in recent years. 

In fact, in a recent survey on patient trust, more than a third of participants said they skipped or avoided care because they did not like the way the healthcare provider or staff treated them. And nearly 80% of the participants said they would not return to the same provider if they had an experience where they lost trust (Read et al., 2021).

But why have we seen this decline in trust? And what can we do about it?

The Reasons

There are countless theories surrounding why patients distrust their providers, but some of the more commonly cited reasons include:

The (Potential) Solutions

Just as there is no single reason for patient distrust, there is no single solution. There are, however, some steps providers and healthcare organizations can take to create an environment conducive to creating and maintaining trust.

We cannot expect patients to trust clinicians, or the health care system more generally, if they themselves are not trusted - Schleifer & Beach, 2021

Two platforms out there that aim to address the impact of cultural competency and stigma in healthcare are HUED and Anyana Therapy.

IHI released a guide to help healthcare professionals have trust-building conversations about the COVID-19 vaccine. However, this guidance is useful for many difficult conversations healthcare professionals may face beyond COVID-19.


Schleifer, D. & Beach, M. (2021). In patients we trust: Why clinicians need to believe and respect patients. Available at

Read, L., Korenda, L., Nelson, H. (2021). Rebuilding trust in health care: What do consumers want – and need – organizations to do? Available at

Gopal, S. (2020). How can doctors retain patients’ trust? Available at