America’s Essential Hospitals launches research project to identify ‘dimensions’ of patient trust

Skilled nursing facility
America's Essential Hospitals has launched a study aimed at the "dimensions" of patient trust. (Getty/Rawpixel)

America’s Essential Hospitals will undertake a research project aimed at improving patients’ trust in their healthcare providers.

The three-phase project is backed in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, AEH announced Tuesday. The end goal is to build guidelines and policies that hospitals can use to boost patient trust, particularly among the most vulnerable patients.

Jennifer Stephens, principal research associate at AEH and one of the project’s lead investigators, told FierceHealthcare that building trust with patients is key to the group and its members’ central goals.


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“We have some core interests that we know our hospitals have embedded in our mission,” which includes patient-centered care, she said. “Part of person-centered care is trust and mutual respect.”

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Stephens and her team will first conduct a panel survey of patients who were treated at one of AEH’s hospitals in the past year. She said the researchers asked patients about “dimensions of trust” that they’re aware of—confidentiality, for example—and will also be probing for dimensions that may be new to the team.

The responses from those surveys will be combined with online reviews of hospitals from sites like Yelp and responses to the national Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS).

From there, researchers will travel to member hospitals armed with that data. They’ll collect additional data from hospitals they deem the most trusted, Stephens said, through interviews with C-suite executives, patient focus groups and a review of relevant internal policies.

All of that research will be compiled into a guide for hospitals to use to follow in the footsteps of their “most trusted” peers.

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Stephens said that while previous studies have examined the level of trust patients place in providers, there has been limited study on trends at the health system or hospital level to examine why patients may trust one specific facility over another.

And while the resulting guide will be focused on AEH member hospitals—most of which are safety-net facilities—Stephens said the research will include insights that other hospitals and policymakers can build from as well.

“We’ll be helping them understand exactly what type of practices can be built into their existing practices to build and maintain that trust,” she said.