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Keywords:

  • Surveys;
  • trust;
  • patient satisfaction

Background. Patient-centered assessments are increasingly important. Patients repeatedly emphasize the importance of trust in health care institutions and personnel.

Objectives. (1) Develop a conceptual framework for trust in health care organizations and a comprehensive, reliable measure of trust in health insurers. (2) Examine predictors and correlates of trust in insurers.

Study Design. A conceptual framework for trust in health organizations based on theory and empirical studies was used to develop items for a structured telephone survey, which also included measures of health and utilization, doctor–patient trust, and satisfaction with care. Principal components factor analyses identified hypothesized domains of trust in health insurers and identified items for scales. Internal consistency assessment used Cronbach's α. Univariate analyses used Pearson's r or Student's t-tests.

Sample. Insured residents of Southeastern Michigan (n=400).

Results. Respondents were diverse in age, gender, ethnicity, health, and socioeconomic status. One dominant factor (eigenvalue>10) included hypothesized domains: administrative competence, clinical competence, advocacy and beneficence, fairness, honesty and openness, and one global item. Multidimensional scales were reliable (long version 13 items, α=0.95, short: 9 items, α=0.91). Insurer trust correlated strongly with trust in doctors (r=0.49 and 0.46) and satisfaction with care (r=0.70 and 0.66), and with an item assessing overall worry about health insurance (r=−0.37 and −0.35). Those with less trust in their insurer were more likely to say that they would change insurance plans (p<.001).

Conclusions. This well-grounded, reliable measure of enrollee trust in insurers can be a useful patient-centered assessment tool.