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Hastings Center News

Rebuilding Trust in Health Care and Science

While confidence in many institutions has been declining for decades, the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the breakdown in trust in health care and science. A new Hastings Center special report on trust delivers a series of findings for public officials, physicians, and scientists seeking to rebuild trust with patients and the public.

The report finds that:

  • Those responsible for speaking with the public and with patients must develop more sophisticated ways to communicate. While competence is critical to build and maintain trust, it is not enough.

  • Regaining public trust requires health care providers and organizations to be trustworthy. Those seeking to build trust should be sure that they are considering their own behavior alongside efforts to measure (or influence) patient perceptions.
  • Trust decisions happen in “climates” – when conspiracy theories about public officials circulate, trust in experts will likely decline. When individual refusals to trust are rooted in climates of distrust, all members of society need to confront the root cause of the climate: the collapse of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior based on commonly shared norms.

The report, edited by Lauren A. Taylor of New York University, Gregory E. Kaebnick of The Hastings Center, and Hastings Center President Emerita Mildred Z. Solomon, explores the causes of the decline in trust and proposes pathways to rebuild it.

“Nothing about trust is simple but we designed this essay set as a ready primer for clinicians, scientists administrators and policymakers,” said Taylor, an assistant professor at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine and a senior advisor to The Hastings Center. “It explores not only on how we got here but where we go from here.”

The special report is the product of a collaboration between The Hastings Center and the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, with support from The Gil Omenn and Martha Darling Fund for Trusted and Trustworthy Scientific Innovation and by the ABIM Foundation. Read Time to Rebuild: Essays on Trust in Health Care and Science.