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The Role of Trust in Doctor-Patient Relationship: Qualitative Evaluation of Online Feedback from Polish Patients



Apart from the fact that trust between doctors and patients is a source of sustainable relations, affecting the behaviour of both parties, it also has its therapeutic value. Therefore, this paper aims to construct a model of trust in the doctor-patient relationship based on qualitative research (analysis of the contents of Internet message boards). The study has revealed that trust towards doctors is a result of overlapping and interpenetration of two levels of trust: macro- and meso-. Macro-trust can be seen as a context in which all the dimensions of institutional trust are ‘embedded’. Whereas meso-trust (institutional) is described in terms of three dimensions: benevolence, competence and integrity.
Katarzyna Krot, Iga Rudawska ISSN 2071-789X
Economics & Sociology, Vol. 9, No 3, 2016
Katarzyna Krot,
Bialystok University of Technology,
Bialystok, Poland,
Iga Rudawska,
University of Szczecin,
Szczecin, Poland,
ABSTRACT. Apart from the fact that trust between
doctors and patients is a source of sustainable relations,
affecting the behaviour of both parties, it also has its
therapeutic value. Therefore, this paper aims to construct a
model of trust in the doctor-patient relationship based on
qualitative research (analysis of the contents of Internet
message boards). The study has revealed that trust towards
doctors is a result of overlapping and interpenetration of
two levels of trust: macro- and meso-. Macro-trust can be
seen as a context in which all the dimensions of
institutional trust are ‘embedded’. Whereas meso-trust
(institutional) is described in terms of three dimensions:
benevolence, competence and integrity.
Received: December, 2015
1st Revision: March, 2016
Accepted: June, 2016
DOI: 10.14254/2071-
JEL Classification
: I11
: system trust, institutional trust, doctor-patient
relationship, Poland.
Trust in various social and economic relations has recently become a subject of wide
debate. Trust between doctors and patients, apart from being a source sustainable relations
and having an influence on the behaviour of both partners, is also of therapeutic value
(Gilson, 2003). Trust, or lack thereof, is a result of actual experience which arises from some
sort of social context and requires a stable institutional background (Strategia Rozwoju
Kapitaáu Spoáecznego 2011-2020). Surveys reveal that in Poland the level of trust towards
doctors is lower than in other European countries. More in-depth research is called for to
clarify the nature of the complex and multi-faceted issue of trust between doctors and
patients. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to put forward a conceptual model of doctor-
patient trust on the basis of qualitative research: analysis of comments published online on
message boards.
1. The circles of doctor-patient trust
Trust is an integral element of every satisfying relationship (Morgan, Hunt, 1994).
Luhmann describes it as a mechanism which reduces social complexity (Skytt, Winther,
2011). Trust can be defined as the belief that one’s partner will act in the common interest
Krot, K., Rudawska, I. (2016), The Role of Trust in Doctor-Patient Relationship:
Qualitative Evaluation of Online Feedback from Polish Patients, Economics and
Sociology, Vol. 9, No 3, pp. 76-88. DOI: 10.14254/2071-789X.2016/9-3/7
Katarzyna Krot, Iga Rudawska ISSN 2071-789X
Economics & Sociology, Vol. 9, No 3, 2016
(Gilson, 2003), and that neither party will ever attempt to harm their partner by taking
advantage of their weaknesses (Morgan, Hunt, 1994). It also means the willingness to invest
one’s resources in a relationship with another party. Trust stems from a certain positive image
established on the basis of previous mutual relations (Brockner et al., 1997), as well as from
the perceived degree of reliability of partners. Moreover, trust acts as a mechanism which
reduces opportunist behavior (Skytt, Winther, 2011).
Patient trust in physician is a multidimensional construct that has different definitions
between and within disciplines. Thom et al. (2002) define patient trust in physician as a set of
beliefs or expectations that a care provider will perform in a certain way, while Pearson and
Raeke (2000) define trust as an emotional characteristic, where patients have a comforting
feeling of faith or dependence in a care provider’s intentions (Montague, 2010).
Patients need trust at each and every stage of building relationships with their doctors.
It plays a key role in these relationships, but also positively affects treatment outcomes
(Hillen et al., 2011). As Calnan and Rowe point out, a relationship based on trust brings
therapeutic benefits, enhances patient satisfaction and, consequently, improves the results of
the treatment (Calnan, Rowe, 2006). Research also demonstrates that in a patient-doctor
relationship, it is essential that a period of time is reserved to make it possible for some degree
of trust to emerge, so that the patient can fully benefit from doctor’s advice, or make changes
in his or her lifestyle, if so recommended (Peilot et al., 2014).
Trust can be studied on several overlapping levels. According to Sztompka, there exist
gradually expanding concentric circles of trust: from the most tangible personal relations to
more abstract attitudes towards social structures and institutions (Sztompka, 2007).
Trust towards a particular doctor will eventually extend to encompass the clinic where
this particular doctor works, and in the long term, it might begin to apply to the social role of
doctors and the entire healthcare system. A reverse phenomenon can occur too: institutional
trust in doctor might influence one’s attitude towards a particular healthcare professional.
Micro-scale (interpersonal) trust is the trust that exists between two persons. On the
micro scale, trust is generated on the basis of the individual disposition of the partners, their
readiness to trust others, personal experience, but also perceived risk and uncertainty, as well
as potential benefits and losses associated with granting trust. Micro-trust is assigned to one
particular person and cannot be transferred to other people, which means that trust appears
whenever both parties meet, i.e. the context of these encounters, and thus the changing roles
of the partners, have no relevance (Skytt, Winther, 2011).
Meso-scale (institutional) trust refers to the confidence in principles, roles and norms,
notwithstanding who personifies them (Skytt, Winther, 2011). This kind of trust depends on
the context. Institutional trust is a general attitude shaped by previous personal experiences
and contacts with the representatives of an institution, on the one hand, and by the existing
social norms on the other (van der Schee et al., 2007; Goold, Klipp, 2002).
Trust is understood as a willingness to rely on others in terms of their competence,
integrity and benevolence. The first two of these dimensions of trust are of rational
(cognitive) nature, while the last one is emotional (affective) (Colquitt et al., 2011). The term
‘competence’ refers to the ability to fulfill given promises, ‘benevolence’ is to be seen as
sincere concern for the interests of customers, whereas ‘integrity’ means compliance with
commonly held principles (Colquitt et al., 2007).
Trust towards one’s partner in a relationship can be ambivalent in nature, i.e. one can
trust someone in certain regards, while distrust the same person in another. According to
Welch, people usually trust their doctors to some extent, but at the same time are partly
skeptical (Welch, 2006).
Macro-scale (system) trust concerns social institutions or systems. It signifies an
expectation that one will receive appropriate attention of, e.g., the healthcare system, should
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such a need arise (Straten et al., 2002). This type of trust is a generalised attitude. Similarly to
institutional trust, it depends partly on one’s personal contacts with the representatives of
those institutions, and partly on their image created by the media. Macro-trust affects the way
in which relationships between individuals and the system (van der Schee, Groenewegen and
Friele, 2006). The idea of trust in large-scale health systems is daunting when the condition of
trust that the ‘truster’ know the ‘trusted’ cannot be fulfilled given the distance of health
institutions from its members and patients (Abelsona et al., 2009).
In order to evaluate and understand a patient-physician trust relationships, it is also
important to clarify the nature of trust in medical technology, particularly in relation to other
aspects of the health care systems. As Montague claims (2010), patient’s trust in technology
may be a variable which provides additional insight into the factors that predict patient trust
or distrust in their physician. Timmons et al. (2008) found that, when confronted with using
an unfamiliar medical technology, users’ trust in the technology is constructed through a
combination of trust in the technology, people and institutions. The researchers found a
relationship between patients’ perceptions of their physicians and their health status decline
(Franks et al., 2005).
According to definition, to trust in technology or automation is to believe that a tool,
machine or equipment will not fail (Montague, 2010). Montague et al. (2009) in their study
provided evidence that trust in technology and trust in medical technology are different
constructs with similar attributes. Study also found that participants’ perceive trust between
technology and trust in medical technology differently. This may be because of the unique
role the human patient plays within the system (Montague et al., 2009). Montague’s studies
found that trust in medical technology is in fact a multi-dimensional construct involving
subscales of technology characteristics, provider’s characteristics and the way in which the
provider uses technology. Calnan et al. (2005) conducted a national survey to assess public
attitudes towards a variety of innovative health care technologies. What they discovered was
general public’s ambivalence about new medical technologies.
It is worth noting that a close correlation can be observed between the various types of
trust. Macro-trust has a bearing on meso- and micro-scale behaviours, but at the same time, it
modifies the system itself. Whereas micro-scale actions affect trust on the higher levels:
meso- and macro- (Skytt, Winther, 2011). Therefore, the health system’s contribution to the
construction of institutional trust, and finding ways to understand these relationships is of
paramount importance.
Trust is a process which focuses not on persons but on interaction. It is about the
ability to build relationships, or to open to new possibilities. In this context, trust means
constant readiness to become involved in relationships with others (Rudzewicz, 2009).
Despite the undeniable benefits of trusting another person (or a technology for that matter), it
seems more profitable sometimes to adopt a strategy of distrust and suspiciousness, because
the costs of misplaced trust can be considerable (Grudzewski et al., 2009).
2. Health care in Poland
Over the last fifteen years the Polish health care system has undergone a number of
significant changes. During the socialist time medical knowledge was often used in an
authoritarian way, in order to implement policies and regulations of a nanny state
(Wáodarczyk, 1998). Patients were reduced to passive recipients of health care and were
completely isolated from the decision making proces.
Consequently a strong idealistic stereotype of a doctor dominated the relationship
between medical personnel and patients. Doctors were perceived by their patients as role
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models in their private and professional life, often expected to be knowledgeable and ethical
altruists (Ostrowska, 1981).
Nowadays, the NFZ defines the volume and scope of health services needed to satisfy
the health needs of a given local community outlined in each voivodeship health plan. Yet,
the most significant change introduced by the reform was the ability for each patient to
choose a doctor, hospital or any organisation contracted by the NFZ to provide medical
services. Unsatisfied patients now have the right to change provider at any time. Even such a
simple change, allowing patients to choose their preferred provider encouraged an unheard of
before level of competitiveness amongst health care organisations. As a result the relationship
between doctors and patients, dominated earlier by high level of trust and paternalism, has
also evolved. A recently published report indicates that the prestige that medical professions
used to enjoy has been gradually falling: in 1975 86% of respondents regarded doctors with
high esteem, the percentage that fell to 79 in 1995, and reached 71% in 2013 (PrestiĪ
zawodów CBOS, 2013).
3. Research methodology
Trust between a doctor and a patient is fairly difficult to measure and, as many authors
notice, there is no universal scale that would quantify it (Dietz et al., 2006). For this reason,
researchers endeavour to construct and verify their own scales, based on other people’s
studies by other scholars. As a result, it becomes even more difficult to conceptualise the
notion. The study conducted for this paper intended to provide more insight into the ways
trust is understood by healthcare system users so as to achieve better operationalisation of the
concept. The overriding purpose, however, was to identify the nature of trust between patients
and doctors by indicating various factors which determine the appearance of such trust. The
undertaken research is to identify the nature of trust between a doctor and a patient by
indicating the particular factors which determine the appearance of such trust. The research
will help to create a conceptual model of trust in the doctor-patient relationship.
Having thus defined the purpose of the study, the authors decided to carry out a
quantitative study in the form of an analysis of posts by users of online message boards where
the issue of patient trust in physicians was discussed (content analysis). Content analysis is a
research technique used in the social sciences, especially sociology. This technique is used for
the objective, systematic and quantitative description of overt content of the messages. The
contents and messages contained in books, newspapers, magazines, the Internet and any other
sources of written documents are a manifestation of attitudes authors messages (Miles,
Huberman, 2000). The analysis takes into account feedback found in magazines, books,
websites, letters, emails etc (Babbie, 2005). After online research, six discussion threads were
selected by the authors, all of which were started on messaged boards established in years
2008-2012:; health service board, thread: ‘Poles are losing confidence in healthcare
profession’ – 96 posts;,305,135703266,135703266,Zaufanie_Polakow_do_za
wodow_medycznych_jest_nizsze.html;; health service board, thread: ‘Can we trust doctors?’ – 12 posts;,305,138339236,,
ml?v=2;, thread: ‘Trust in doctors’ 7 posts; http://dziecko-;
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80; forum on children’s health, thread: ‘I’m losing trust in doctors’– 31
posts;,567,90026508,,trace_zaufanie_do_lekarzy.html?v=2;, thread: ‘Trust in doctors’ 7 posts; http://dziecko-;; health forum, thread: ‘Trust in doctors’ 38 posts;,24712,80087278,80859783,Re_temat_zmieniony_ZA
4. Patients’ trust in doctors – results
4.1. Macro-scale (system) trust
Institutional trust in the doctor-patient relationship is built and maintained in the
context of real and symbolic events taking place on the surface of mass phenomena. These
phenomena are:
systemic: associated with organising and running of healthcare system,
macrostructural: concerning the institutional foundation of doctor-patient relationship.
Both of the above dimensions of mass phenomena involve apart from doctors and
patients a third party, namely the payer, responsible for financing health services and in-
kind benefits in a given population.
In a positive way, trust is interpreted as the propensity to believe in the other party’s
intentions and actions in a situation that poses the risk of opportunistic behavior (Meijboom,
de Haan, Verheyen, 2004). Lack of trust, therefore, means the opposite of this propensity:
refraining from close relations with the other party. On a macro-scale, this can be manifested
in a variety of ways. Among them is the projection effect, which consists in the identification
of the representatives of a given mechanism (here: healthcare system) with the mechanism
itself. The characteristics and attributes of the mechanism are automatically ascribed to all its
individual elements. Quantitative studies explicitly confirm this rule:
‘[…] it might be because doctors are identified with the system. The system is far from
perfect (though not as bad as many believe), and people project this low opinion onto
the system’s functionaries – as this is what the system has reduced doctors to’ (pct3).
‘Medical professionals are somehow automatically identified with the country’s entire
healthcare system, which, as everyone knows, leaves a lot to be desired. I guess lots of
people just don’t get the whole idea of NFZ (National Health Fund), Ministry of Health,
etc. and so they vent their anger on those medical professions’ (sabrilla).
It can be concluded on the basis of the above remarks that the patient-doctor
relationship is entangled in the social and structural context, and inextricably embedded in the
healthcare system. This context seems necessary for proper understanding of certain
phenomena, including the creation and shaping of institutional trust in the discussed relation.
A healthcare system provides a number of principles – institutional regulations and contracts
– which determine the occurrence of certain propensities (here: of trust as the bonding agent
of relationships). The configuration of the elements of the set can be either understood
narrowly (as the rules of the game), or broadly – as a system of formal institutions and
organisational structures, or even political bodies. The present quantitative study confirms the
existence of these two approaches. Under the former approach, the healthcare system can be
treated as a construction founded on the ethical and moral principles of the medical
profession, which should suffice as a reference point. Here is what patients expect:
‘I’d like most doctors to be dedicated professionals, like the one mentioned above…’
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However, doctors themselves are slightly more pragmatic:
‘[…] the so-called ‘vocation’ and mental strength help you face reality without losing
your mind in the process. The oath? Doesn’t it mention enjoying life and being honored
with fame (strangely, everyone forgets this line). Frankly, WE HATE THE OATH,
because in Poland it has been used for years as a justification of the fact that doctors
earn less than manual labourers: What about the vocation?! they ask’ (practicant).
Others, meanwhile, prefer a broader understanding of the configuration of the set’s
elements, taking systemic solutions into consideration. They usually propose institutional
solutions to streamline the system or its parts:
‘full privatisation is the only recipe for an efficient healthcare service!!!’ (kazymux).
‘[…] if you pay for it, you are entitled to decent care’ (krabe).
In the doctor-patient relationship, institutional trust is also closely connected with
one’s interpersonal attitude towards the environment, and particularly towards other people.
Despite being aware of certain restrictions, such as information asymmetry and agency
relationship, patients can either be willing to cooperate or refuse to be cooperative. Here are
some of the postings which confirm this:
‘My doctors are wonderful. You wouldn’t believe it, but we cooperate like partners.
Unfortunately, I sometimes encounter a less wonderful doctor, and then I have to prove
that I am aware of the risk, and that they should give up trying to tell me how to live my
life. Cooperation isn’t about thoughtless compliance with decisions that have little to do
with the current state of medical knowledge, but plenty to do with the doctor’s
conviction of his own god-like infallibility’ (posted by a woman).
‘Doctors’ attitude to patients also results from the fact that many patients fight (often
literally) with doctors, instead of cooperating with them’ (niunia).
‘I guess doctors prefer patients who know what they want, even if they have strong
opinions’ (prograf).
At the same time, service users realise that doctors’ attitudes to patients are
heterogeneous and dependent on the human factor, identified, however, with the organisation
as a whole. This is reflected, e.g. in the following comment:
‘[…] The system includes clinics and doctors who treat patients with respect. But then
there are also those with arrogant attitudes, where patients are treated like numbers,
not people […] Even in the same recovery room you can be lucky enough to get a nurse
whose professionalism and dedication makes you feel secure and cared for. While, in
the next shift, there comes a nurse who disregards the principles, and probably hospital
procedures, and the patients can do nothing but watch helplessly, paper is patient after
all. This second nurse won’t be a better carer, no matter what money, equipment or
procedures are provided’ (practicant).
The above post emphasises the strong link between trust in medical personnel and
confidence in technologies and procedures. Both types of trust co-exist, contributing to the
patients’ sense of security, where as trust felt towards technology alone, even if adequately
high, will never compensate for deficient trust in doctors.
The above remarks prove that patients are convinced that the quality of health services
and the trust between doctors and patients are strongly determined by individual attitudes and
behaviours of both sides of the relationship.
4.2. Meso-scale (institutional) trust
Trust is an essential element of any doctor-patient relationship. A certain level of trust
is a prerequisite for a doctor’s appointment to take place at all. Sztompka claims that trust is a
notion which belongs to the activist discourse since it denotes not only a conviction, but also
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actions based on the conviction (Sztompka, 2007, p. 71). Moreover, confidence in a doctor is
crucial for the success of an appointment: quality of communication and cooperation,
compliance with doctor’s advice, etc. One of the forum users phrases it in the following way:
‘[…] when presenting at the doctor’s surgery (of any specialisation) we must trust him
or her, otherwise we wouldn’t want them to diagnose or treat our illness. You can’t go
to a dentist without trusting him – that would be a logical contradiction. Just like if you
didn’t trust a driver, you wouldn’t get on a bus because we’d be afraid that we wouldn’t
reach our destination safely’ (krabe).
Nevertheless, the study conducted for this paper indicates that the users’ experiences
have prevented them from fully trusting their doctors:
‘Polish patients have limited confidence in the healthcare providers…’ (pumpernikiel).
The above statement proves that there exists a generalised attitude towards doctors,
which points to the institutional nature of trust. Other message board users declare complete
lack of trust in physicians (distrust), claiming that demonstrating trust is nothing short of
‘I lost my confidence in doctors quite a long time ago. I spent 8 years looking for a
doctor who would help me treat my disorder. That included both gynaecologists and
endocrynologists, who later turned out to be just ordinary gynos. […]How could I
believe so completely in what they said? I’ve since lost my trust in doctors, I read a lot
and analyse both diagnoses and dosages of medications’ (Kinga123).
‘you’ll be on the safe side if you don’t trust any doctors’ (milaemalka).
‘[…] blind, unlimited confidence in a doctor (especially one you don’t know) is naive in
my opinion (liczek).
According to Abelsona et al. (2009), distrust may comprise healthy skepticism while
mistrust comprises more unhealthy cynicism. Mistrust, therefore, becomes a dangerous
phenomenon, which tends towards social atomism (Lewis, Weigert, 1985).
Several of the messages defend doctors and contain favourable comments on their
‘Girls/Ladies of the forum – you’re doing a great job, but you could do with a little
medical knowledge, humility and respect for good doctors’ (Anda).
‘[…] as for me, I owe my life to doctors and I’ve come across many wonderful people,
to whom I’ll always be grateful. Also my GP is hugely popular with patients, because
she’s good at her job’ (zoáza).
‘I also trust a children’s surgeon a dedicated doctor, who passionately lectures his
patients on the importance of healthy life style and inquires about their other ailments,
while e.g. removing a verucca’ (liczek).
It seems that for patients to develop trust towards a doctor, the doctor has to be, as one
of the forum users phrased it, a ‘dedicated professional’, devoted to patient care, and with a
holistic approach to patient management.
The disproportion between the posts whose authors express trust in their physicians
and those containing declarations of distrust can be explained by the fact that people tend to
share bad experiences rather than positive ones. This could, moreover, result from the nature
of the medium – an online message board – used by persons eager to vent their frustration and
dissatisfaction with a medical service, and seeking the understanding of those with similar
Benevolence, understood by patients in a variety of ways, e.g. as respect, empathy or
offering detailed information about treatment, is the most frequently mentioned aspect of trust
in the analysed message boards. This element of the relationship is, on the one hand, the
easiest to assess and, on the other hand, strongly associated with the patient’s well-being.
What is more, forum users believe that a friendly attitude towards patients does not depend on
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the economic situation of the health service provider, but solely on the goodwill of the
medical personnel. Receiving information concerning one’s health and the course of treatment
is for patients an important manifestation of benevolence. The doctor-patient relationship is
characterised by information asymmetry, with the advantage on the part of the doctor. This
breeds insecurity in patients, which they endeavour to reduce. That is why patients are so
sensitive to information provided by doctors. Therefore a doctor’s ability to share information
creates favourable conditions for cooperation, conscious co-decision-making, taking
responsibility for one’s health and building of mutual trust. All this is confirmed by the users
of the studied message boards:
‘Why can one [doctor] tell you what happened in the operating theatre, while another
one first treats you as if you were crazy and only dispenses information when publicly
forced to do so in the presence of his superior? Is it about money? Does he need any
equipment to share information?’ (practicant).
‘I knew everything I wanted to know; they were patient and answered even the strangest
questions. So I’d say I have reasons to trust doctors’ (ProGraf).
‘I’ve recently often felt disappointed by the way my questions are answered’ (Krabe).
Forum users expect to receive information from their doctors at every stage of the
process of treatment, and regard lack of such information as neglect:
‘I’ve been feeling somewhat neglected. I get practically no response to my misgivings,
the doctor just writes things down…’ (ahimsa).
‘He told me to phone him if I was worried about anything, and I do call him on his
mobile whenever I need a prescription or have a question’ (daglezja).
Commentators also emphasised the fact that for trust to appear, mutual respect and
empathy are necessary. The posts below express this conviction:
‘[…] Even in the same recovery room you can be lucky enough to get a nurse whose
professionalism and dedication makes you feel secure and cared for’ (practicant).
‘If you’re not satisfied and feel that you’re not receiving proper care, change your
doctor. You pay for healthcare after all and have the right to expect better’ (Dotach).
‘The problem is that you want me to respect doctors simple for being doctors, while you
believe that as a doctor you have the right to treat me like an idiot just because I’m a
patient’ (0.9_procent).
Respect also means time devoted to each patient, sufficient for dialogue and answering
patient questions. Whereas rushing the appointment, ostentatious glancing at the watch or
impatience are behaviours that show a lack of respect towards the patient.
‘Can you trust someone whom you pay 100 zlotys per 10 minutes, but when you want to
ask another question they give you an impatient look and repeat the date of the next
appointment?’ (liczek).
Trust in doctors was often equated with confidence in their competence, expertise and
skill. The most frequently mentioned aspects included adequate training, up-to-date
professional knowledge and accuracy of diagnosis.
‘More than once, I’ve been disappointed with even the most basic medical knowledge of
many doctors’ (Paweáciu).
Forum users made it clear that once their confidence in the knowledge and
competence of physicians was undermined, they found it difficult to trust other doctors again.
This indicates a close correlation between interpersonal and institutional trust. Erosion of trust
leads, moreover, to other negative consequences: e.g. doubt about medical advice, self-
medicating or modification of doctor’s orders.
‘Only after 8 years of pseudo-treatment did I find a doctor who referred me to a
specialist clinic for detailed investigations, and it turned out that I had been completely
misdiagnosed by one of my previous doctors. But it was ‘too late’ for treatment. I’ve
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since lost my trust in doctors, I read a lot and analyse both diagnoses and dosages of
medications’ (haganna).
‘[…] there are doctors who have lost all credibility in my eyes because of their
ignorance; I’d never let any of them treat my kidney’ (Abi).
For the authors of the posts, diagnostic skills depend on a holistic approach to
treatment: one which takes into account the general condition of the patient’s health.
‘A person whose job is to diagnose and treat diseases, often can’t be bothered to go
through test results carefully enough, or to make sure what the correct dosages are, to
treat me like a human being, and not like a number in a list. […] That’s why I am
educating myself: it’s a self-defence strategy’ (kotbehemot6).
The above post reflects yet another aspect of trust in doctors: the question of integrity
and conscientious attitude to professional duties. Conscientiousness means a thorough review
of medical records and laboratory data, obtaining missing information from the patient (taking
of medical history), as well as other steps necessary for correct diagnosis and choice of
treatment. Sometimes, non-standard solutions are required:
‘I’d love to meet another doctor (so far I’ve met only two: an ophthalmologist and a
pediatrician) who would make the effort to think outside the box and focus on the
patient for a while’ (niunia).
‘Even though I’ve been let down by many doctors, I’ve finally found one who has time
for patients, but, first of all, takes time to think’ (niunia).
According to the forum users, a trustworthy doctor is capable of a holistic view of the
patient. Such an approach is also a reflection of commitment and integrity:
‘[a doctor] who, while e.g. removing a verucca, passionately lectures his patients on
the importance of healthy life style and inquires about the other ailments that he
suspects (e.g. obesity, spine problems, smoking etc.) has a holistic approach to his
patients. For him, patiens are HUMAN BEINGS’ (liczek).
‘Self-education is never sufficient. In my opinion, you can’t treat yourself for, e.g. a
thyroid disease, because a good doctor has a comprehensive understanding of your
state of health (test results, age, other illnesses, etc.)’ (anda).
It is worth noting that once disappointed with a doctor, patients tend to be more wary
of trusting other representatives of the profession. Meanwhile if a patient trusts a doctor, they
are less sensitive to certain inconveniences, such as long queues or waiting lists, and probably
also higher cost of treatment or greater distance between healthcare centre and place of
‘Even though I’ve been let down by many doctors, I’ve finally found one who has time
for patients, but, first of all, takes time to think. […] There is always a long queue for
appointment with her, because she does not keep looking at her watch while talking to
patients’ (teraz_asia).
In this article, the trust has been studied from a sociological perspective. The way of
understanding of trust in doctors, its nature, complexity was analyzed through direct,
unfettered comments of forum participants patients. Research technique dedicated to such
purpose of the study is, among others, content analysis.
On the basis on the collected empirical material, a model of trust in doctors was
constructed, with three overlapping levels: macro-, meso- and micro-trust. Macro-trust can be
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Katarzyna Krot, Iga Rudawska ISSN 2071-789X
Economics & Sociology, Vol. 9, No 3, 2016
losses for the entire system (e.g. overconsumption of medical care). High level of institutional
trust, on the other hand, is a factor that makes patients more tolerant of temporary drops in the
quality of medical services.
Interpersonal trust, despite its limited range, but thanks to the direct and personal
bonds it involves, ensures a permanence of the doctor-patient relationship, and has a bearing
on the other levels of trust.
The study results show that trust in a doctor-patient relationship is a social, complex
and multi-dimensional phenomenon. Actions taken within just one of the dimensions will not
yield expected outcome. On the other hand, however, any attempts at improving the situation
will trigger a synergy effect to infuse the relation between a doctor and a patient with multi-
tiered trust, thus making it more effective, and – in the long term more efficient. This is
because a relationship based on trust will help avoid duplication of medical testing, non-
compliance with medication regimens, unnecessary multiple appointments, and disregard for
doctor’s recommendations.
Trust, as a symbolic component of a relationship, can therefore be considered an
indispensable condition for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of a health care
system, because it permeates all the levels of a doctor-patient relationship. It eludes simple
analyses of health economics, being rather part of multi-dimensional studies into the nature of
relationship between service providers and service recipients, where involvement, reputation
and communication are key words.
Methodological considerations
The conclusions presented in the paper have been drafted based on a study conducted
among a specific sample group: Internet users, i.e. persons who comprise 65% of society,
mainly young, better educated, from large cities (Polskie Badanie Internetu, data from 2012).
This means that the authors might have failed to investigate the opinions of, e.g., older people.
The online environment poses certain risks, but can also become a source of
opportunities. On the one hand, the anonymity that the Internet ensures encourages message
board users to express their opinions freely, boldly and often accurately. The absence of a
researcher, or of an imposed interview script, makes the posts more valuable and free from
any external influence. On the other hand, however, posting on Internet forums is often
treated as a way to release tension and get rid of frustration associated with one’s socio-
economic circumstances.
Conflict of interest and funding
The authors report no conflicts of interest.
Funding acknowledgement
The paper is financed by a research grant from the National Science Centre (grant No.
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... 45 In this context, patients have to trust their doctors in order to get appropriate health care. 45 Therefore, confidentiality contributes to the patients' trust. Currently, there are few studies on patients' trust in the patient-chiropractic doctor relationship. ...
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Doctor–patient relationships (DPRs) in China have been straining. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the relationships and interactions between patients and doctors are changing. This study investigated how patients’ attitudes toward physicians changed during the pandemic and what factors were associated with these changes, leading to insights for improving management in the healthcare sector. This paper collected 58,600 comments regarding Chinese doctors from three regions from the online health platform Good Doctors Online (, accessed on 13 October 2022). These comments were analyzed using text mining techniques, such as sentiment and word frequency analyses. The results showed improvements in DPRs after the pandemic, and the degree of improvement was related to the extent to which a location was affected. The findings also suggest that administrative services in the healthcare sector need further improvement. Based on these results, we summarize relevant recommendations at the end of this paper.
... Several researchers have focused on identifying reliable indicators or antecedents of trust. In a recent paper, Krot and Rudawska (2016) categorized the factors that appear to be connected to doctor-patient trust into three dimensions: benevolence, competence, and integrity. When focusing on benevolence, several studies have reported the importance of emotional interaction between doctor and patient, such as the physician demonstrating early interest in the patient, being sensitive, and taking time with the patient (Wu et al., 2019). ...
The concept of trust has been extensively studied within the field of medicine. Yet, a list of factors that clearly influence patients’ trust is still under debate. Moreover, the methodological approaches found in literature have been reported to be lacking in their assessments and measurements of trust relationships in the medical field although trust between a patient and medical provider has been proven to increase adherence and improve health outcomes. Hence, adding data to this debate and exploring a reliable method to explore the construct of trust is relevant. This study collects new evidence of the most salient indicators of patient trust by using a narrative approach and highlighting the potential of this method in collecting indicators that could be used to build training that aims to increase patients’ trust. We used the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software for text analysis to examine the spontaneous narrations of episodes of trust and distrust within the doctor-patient relationship with a sample of 82 adult patients. Results demonstrate the role of the emotional aspects of the doctor-patient relationship. Data highlights the importance of doctors’ benevolence toward patients, and positive emotions seem to be deeply connected with any experience of trust, which leads patients to feel more secure. Methods are presented to use these insights to construct mechanisms that establish medical trust and allow providers to implement effective interventions.
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The current literature suggests that downsizing is a popular strategy among public sector managers to improve organizational efficiency, effectiveness, and performance. To extend this line of research, this study aims to empirically examine the effects of public sector downsizing on organizational performance in the context of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. To determine the effects of the subdimensions of public sector downsizing on the subdimensions of public sector performance, a conceptual model is developed and examined based on qualitative data collected from a sample of 20 public sector managers in various organizations in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Content analysis of the interviews reveals that, as a subdimension of public sector downsizing, privatization is suggested to link to the subdimensions of public sector performance. Implications of the findings for theory and practice are discussed, and avenues for future research are recommended.
... This concern was then captured by the community as a hope to get out of the health problems they experienced. However, this closeness, for Krot & Rudawska, 22 is not only represented by formal interactions. Health workers should engage in informal relationships by increasing the level of interaction with the community. ...
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... The doctor-patient relationship is seen asymmetrical in terms of vulnerability and power (Skirbekk, Middelthon, Hjortdahl & Finset, 2011). Patients need trust at each and every stage of building relationships with their doctors for effective and positive treatment outcomes (Krot & Rudawska, 2016). Especially in modern complex societies patients desire for power sharing as their expectations' of doctors have changed. ...
... In health care systems, trust is applicable to relations among people whereby it is a core factor of the doctor-patient relationship and an intergral element of a satisfying relationship (Lewis and Weigert, 1985;FCMC 2018;Rolfe et al., 2006;Krot and Rudawska 2016). Trust includes both confidence and reliance given that patients are put in a vulnerable situation where they believe that the healthcare-providers will pay attention to their need (Hall et al., 2001). ...
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Celem artykułu jest ogólny przegląd koncepcji zaufania. Teoria zaufania rozwija się, jednak nadal nie jest to zjawisko dogłębnie rozpoznane. Zaufanie odnosi się zawsze do osób, nawet relacje międzyorganizacyjne są zawsze budowane przez pracowników (ludzi). W budowaniu zaufania kładzie się główny nacisk na życzliwość, kompetencje, niezawodność i zaangażowanie partnerów. The purpose of this article is a general overview of the concept of trust. The theory of trust is growing, but still this phenomenon is not recognized in depth. Trust always refers to people, even inter-organizational relationships are always built by employees (people). The building of trust puts the main emphasis on kindness, competence, reliability and commitment of partners.
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In the knowledge based economy, knowledge production has become increasingly important for the competitiveness of firms, cities and regions and as an explanatory factor of spatial economic dynamics. In an immense amount of literature in economic geography, sociology and economics it has been argued that knowledge production often takes place in inter-organizational collaborations, and that trust is an important prerequisite for such collaboration to succeed. The concept of trust, however, remains often blurred and vaguely defined in much of the literature: it often only appears as an asset, an instrument or an input in economic relations. The paper broaden the understanding of trust in local knowledge production by suggesting an approach to trust as an inter-personal feeling to be analysed on three different but interrelated scales depending on the socio-spatial contexts of the actors. The approach avoids a reification of inter-organisational relations as the place for knowledge production but allows an analysis of trust to move between micro-, meso- and macro scales seeing trust as an inter-personal feeling. The conclusion is that trust in diverse socio-spatial contexts takes on different forms at different scales. This is illustrated by a case study of knowledge production in inter-organisational collaborations in the Sønderborg region, Denmark.
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The treatment of patients with chronic pain disorders is complex. In the rehabilitation of these patients, coping with chronic pain is seen as important. The aim of this study was to explore the meaning of attachment and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (CT) among patients with chronic pain and psychiatric co-morbidity. A phenomenological approach within a lifeworld perspective was used. In total, 10 patients were interviewed after completion of 7- to 13-month therapy. The findings reveal that the therapy and the process of interaction with the therapist were meaningful for the patients' well-being and for a better management of pain. During the therapy, the patients were able to initiate a movement of change. Thus, CT with focus on attachment and mindfulness seems to be of value for these patients. The therapy used in this study was adjusted to the patients' special needs, and a trained psychotherapist with a special knowledge of patients with chronic pain might be required.
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which measures and operationalisations of intra‐organisational trust reflect the essential elements of the existing conceptualisation of trust inside the workplace. Design/methodology/approach The paper provides an overview of the essential points from the rich variety of competing conceptualisations and definitions in the management and organisational literatures. It draws on this overview to present a framework of issues for researchers to consider when designing research based on trust. This framework is then used to analyse the content of 14 recently published empirical measures of intra‐organisational trust. It is noted for each measure the form that trust takes, the content, the sources of evidence and the identity of the recipient, as well as matters related to the wording of items. Findings The paper highlights where existing measures match the theory, but also shows a number of “blind‐spots” or contradictions, particularly over the content of the trust belief, the selection of possible sources of evidence for trust, and inconsistencies in the identity of the referent. Research limitations/implications It offers researchers some recommendations for future research designed to capture trust among different parties in organisations, and contains an Appendix with 14 measures for intra‐organisational trust. Originality/value The value of the paper is twofold: it provides an overview of the conceptualisation literature, and a detailed content‐analysis of several different measures for trust. This should prove useful in helping researchers refine their research designs in the future.
Relationship marketing—establishing, developing, and maintaining successful relational exchanges—constitutes a major shift in marketing theory and practice. After conceptualizing relationship marketing and discussing its ten forms, the authors (1) theorize that successful relationship marketing requires relationship commitment and trust, (2) model relationship commitment and trust as key mediating variables, (3) test this key mediating variable model using data from automobile tire retailers, and (4) compare their model with a rival that does not allow relationship commitment and trust to function as mediating variables. Given the favorable test results for the key mediating variable model, suggestions for further explicating and testing it are offered.
Although trust is an underdeveloped concept in sociology, promising theoretical formulations are available in the recent work of Luhmann and Barber. This sociological version complements the psychological and attitudinal conceptualizations of experimental and survey researchers. Trust is seen to include both emotional and cognitive dimensions and to function as a deep assumption underwriting social order. Contemporary examples such as lying, family exchange, monetary attitudes, and litigation illustrate the centrality of trust as a sociological reality.
We develop theory that distinguishes trust among employees in typical task contexts (marked by low levels of situational unpredictability and danger) from trust in "high-reliability" task contexts (those marked by high levels of situational unpredictability and danger). A study of firefighters showed that trust in high-reliability task contexts was based on coworkers' integrity, whereas trust in typical task contexts was also based on benevolence and identification. Trust in high-reliability contexts predicted physical symptoms, whereas trust in typical contexts predicted withdrawal. Job demands moderated linkages with performance: trust in high-reliability task contexts was a more positive predictor of performance when unpredictable and dangerous calls were more frequent.
Defibrillators are now widely installed in a variety of public places for the immediate treatment of people who have collapsed with a suspected cardiac arrest. These initiatives are predicated on the defibrillator being used by ‘lay’ volunteers. This presents a problem of trust, as the volunteer rescuers need to trust an unfamiliar technology to diagnose and treat an immediately life-threatening condition they are unlikely to have encountered before. Based on qualitative interviews with volunteers and defibrillator trainers, we show how trust in the defibrillator is constructed and maintained as a social process. This trust is a complex phenomenon, placed in technology, people and institutions, all of which work together to enable the volunteer, when an emergency occurs, to ‘push the button.’
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to respond to a call for academia to partner industry by offering new thinking on public relations research and practice. Design/methodology/approach The paper rethinks relationship management by broadening previous views on the dimensions of relationships. Distrust is proposed as a 12th dimension, adding to Ledingham's 11. It suggests that trust and distrust exist simultaneously within business‐to‐business relationships and that trust and distrust are employed in a coaxial view of relationships within a zone of approval. The paper draws on the work of relationship management theorists and those who identify trust as a key component of relationships. Conceptual considerations are coupled with empirical data collected in a qualitative case study of relationships between the communications team of a blue chip UK utilities company and service provider (SP) organisations. Findings Analysis supports the broader understanding of trust and distrust operating simultaneously in a zone of approval and may help managers to analyse their business‐to‐business relationships. Research limitations/implications Findings of qualitative research case studies are not themselves generalisable. This paper uses those findings to develop relationship management theory which may be of interest to practitioners. The findings are also used to generate ideas for further research. Practical implications An embryonic model is suggested that may provide managers with a tool to use when considering the elements of trust and distrust in relationship management. Originality/value Contributes to a broader understanding of relationships by suggesting distrust as a 12th dimension in the coaxial view of relationships. Proposes a zone of approval model to enable the exploration of trust and distrust in relationship management.