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Keywords:

  • Physician trust;
  • Communication;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

Abstract

Objective

To identify components of the patient-doctor relationship associated with trust in physicians.

Methods

We assessed 102 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) seen at publicly funded hospitals in Houston, Texas. Patients completed a self-response survey examining patient perceptions of the medical encounter and trust in their physicians. Evaluated components of physicians' behaviors included: informativeness, sensitivity to concerns, reassurance and support, patient-centeredness, and participatory decision-making style. Scales were scored 0 to 10, with higher numbers indicating more positive perceptions of communication.

Results

Seventy patients had RA and 32 SLE; 25% were white, 43% Latino, 31% African American, and 75% were female. Mean scores for the medical interaction and trust scales ranged from 6.2–7.1, indicating moderate degrees of positive perceptions. All components were highly and positively correlated with each other, and with trust, suggesting that these traits are all elements of a positive style of doctor-patient communication. In multivariate analysis, ethnicity, physicians' informativeness, physicians' sensitivity to concerns, patient-centeredness, disease activity, and patient trust in the US health care system were independent predictors of trust in physicians. A separate model examined the predictors of patient disclosure of information. Patient perceptions of physicians' patient-centeredness and severity of disease activity were independently predictive of patient disclosure of information.

Conclusion

In patients with SLE and RA, trust in physicians is significantly associated with patients' ethnicity and their perceptions about specific components of physicians' communication style. Trust in physicians can be improved by using a patient-centered approach, being sensitive to patient concerns, and providing adequate clinical information. Furthermore, patients appear to be more willing to disclose concerns when physicians use a patient-centered communication style.