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Four ways healthcare executives can gain consumer trust


Insurers are gaining trust while pharma moves backwards in trust. Find out why.

Insurers and hospitals/providers have been able to increase levels of trust in their subsectors. Meanwhile, both the biotech and pharmaceutical industries are moving backwards in trust, according to a new global study.

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer provides both reason for optimism and concern for the U.S. healthcare sector. First, health insurance, the least trusted healthcare subsector in the United States in 2015, increased by four points (from 47 to 51), the most of any subsector this year.


White“Trust in those on the front lines of delivering care or on the shelf delivering value to consumers is on the rise, while trust in the research-based companies that deliver the innovation through these channels is declining,” says Kym White, Edelman’s global chair, health sector. 

According to White, an additional 9 million people in the United States received health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act and that increase “is quite possibly contributing to the increase in trust [for insurers and hospitals/providers], despite frustration and disappointment with the cost of health plans,” White says.

“Additionally, in order to compete on the individual insurance exchanges, insurers are increasingly marketing themselves directly to consumers and engaging in a way that they haven’t had to in the past,” she continues.

For example, health insurers are engaging in more direct-to-consumer communications, sponsoring consumer programs that incentivize people to exercise, eat healthier and generally improve their health outcomes.

“This newly consumer-facing behavior may be advancing the health insurance industry’s connection with patients who increasingly can or must make choices among them,” White says.

Source: 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer

Hospitals/clinics increased by one point from 65 in 2015 to 66 in 2016 and remain the most trusted healthcare subsector in the United States.

“We attributed this to the fact that more and more people are being brought into the healthcare system and having experience with those on the frontlines of care that are advancing trust, while other parts of the healthcare ecosystem that are removed from the actual provision of care do not get the same benefit,” she says. “This is especially true in the United States as the increase in healthcare coverage is also resulting in more people interacting with healthcare providers who are becoming the face for the entire industry.”

Next: What about pharma?



On the flip side, however, the biotech and pharmaceutical industries are both seeing two-point declines, according to the report. “[This] is a warning sign to biotech and pharma companies that action needs to be taken to stem this erosion in trust and advance trust to keep pace with the larger healthcare sector, or risk a bigger divide between drug manufacturers and the rest of the healthcare industry,” White says.

“If these trends continue, we’ll experience a growing trust gap between those who do the innovating and those who deliver on innovation, in addition to the gap already evident between the elites and mass population,” White says. “Lesser trust in pharma and biotech companies carries with it broad implications for the ability to attract and keep employees, license to operate in the larger health and business ecosystem, and greater support for regulations that may threaten a license to lead.”

Based on this survey, White has this advice for executives:

• Address consumer expectations. “Understand what they are and address the gaps between expectations and performance-data protection, quality and safety are important trust-building behaviors; transparency, quality control and making lives easier are big opportunities to gain trust.”

• Get involved. Healthcare companies have been given a license to become involved in ongoing debates about the surrounding healthcare system, White says. “Employee trust and advocacy is linked to a company’s engagement in societal issues, as well as a CEO’s association with those issues.”

• Build employee advocacy. Ensure that employees understand the company’s work on social issues and address enterprise-specific issues to build trust and belief, and empower employees to engage with external audiences with appropriate guardrails.

• Get personal. “Those on the frontlines delivering care have a trust advantage,” White says. “How can you better serve your stakeholders so they experience a personal touch and feel you have their best interests at heart?”

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s 16th annual trust and credibility survey. The survey was powered by research firm Edelman Berland and consisted of 20-minute online interviews conducted on October 13 to November 16th, 2015. The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer surveyed more than 33,000 respondents consisting of 1,150 general population respondents ages 18 years and over and 500 informed public respondents in the United States and China and 200 informed public respondents in all other countries representing 15% of the total population across 28 countries. All informed publics met the following criteria: ages 25 to 64 years, college-educated; household income in the top 25% for their age in their country; report significant media consumption and engagement in business news and public policy.



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