Assessing the trustworthiness of GPs
Trust is fundamental to the patient-doctor relationship in that it can increase adherence to treatment and continuity of care. While ‘general’ measures of trust in GPs in surveys demonstrate high levels of trust among populations, ‘specific’ measures of trust (in relation to particular experiences of health care) reveal a more sceptical picture. Indeed, the increase in the availability of health information and support online, the growth of complementary and alternative medicine, increasing media scrutiny of GPs and various medical ‘scandals’ have indicated that the trustworthiness of the medical profession can no longer be assumed. The nature of patient-doctor interactions will be further complicated by the Health and Social Care Act (2012); various health care organisations have noted that some of the new legislative measures pose a further threat to trust between patients and GPs once GPs take on a major budgetary role.
This project aims to draw on a range of data to explore how judgements regarding the trustworthiness of GPs are formed. This will be tackled through three separate but complementary work packages: (1) a review of existing trust in GP measures from social surveys and how the concept is operationalised; (2) focus group work to assess in more detail patient perceptions of what makes GPs trustworthy; (3) an analysis of health related online forums to gain additional insights into patient experiences. Data in each work package will be analysed separately, but will be ultimately combined to explore the affordances of each approach for addressing trust in GPs. In doing so, this project addresses the conditions which foster trustworthy interactions between patients and GPs and will inform any policy interventions designed to do so.
The methodological contribution of this project is twofold. First, it will provide a widespread review of existing data in the public domain, i) by offering a review of large-N datasets which will report on their suitability for generating reliable population estimates of trust in GPs, and ii) by evaluating the extent to which online forum information can be harnessed and used by social scientists. Second, it will explore the ways in which different methods provide different insights into phenomena and the value and challenges of mixed method research in integrating findings from survey, online and qualitative focus group data.