Do your patients trust you? A sociological understanding of the implications of patient mistrust in healthcare professionals
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The trust that patients invest in healthcare professionals and their advice has been shown to facilitate positive clinical outcomes, although there is evidence that patient trust in expertise, including healthcare professionals, has been declining over the years. Questions about whether or not to trust healthcare professionals have been raised recently in international media by Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue, who spoke of her alleged initial misdiagnosis with breast cancer and went on to tell women that they should ‘follow their intuition’ rather than placing unquestioning trust in doctors or medical advice. Given the power of the media in shaping public opinion, there is a potential for such stories to further impact on the already potentially friable doctor-patient relationships, with questions of trust taking centre-stage. Therefore, an understanding of the nature of trust, in addition to the reasons for the decline in patient trust, is exceedingly important for health professionals. This paper presents an overview of social theories of trust that provide a lens through which we can analyse the development of mistrust in healthcare, and identifies ways in which healthcare professionals may aim to facilitate and sustain patient trust.