Patient trust in the physician: Relationship to patient requests

David H. Thom, Richard L Kravitz, Robert A Bell, Edward Krupat, Rahman Azari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


Background. Patient trust is a key component of the patient-physician relationship. A previous qualitative study has suggested that a low level of trust is associated with unfulfilled requests. Objective. Our aim was to test the hypothesis that patients with a low level of trust will be more likely to report that requested or needed services were not provided during an office visit. Methods. An observational study was carried out of office visits by 732 patients of 45 physicians (16 family physicians, 18 general internists and 11 cardiologists), within two managed care settings. Participants were consecutive, English-speaking patients, age 18 and older who had a significant health concern. Visit questionnaires were completed by 68% of patients known to be eligible. Post-visit measures included services requested (information, examination, prescription, test or referral); services provided; and requested or needed services not provided during the visit. Measures at 2-week follow-up included patient satisfaction, intended adherence to advice, interval contacts with the health system and symptom improvement. Results. After adjustment for patient and physician characteristics, patient trust in the physician was not associated with the likelihood that a service was requested or provided during the visit, with the exception that prescription of a new medication was more frequent among patients with higher trust. In contrast, patients with low trust prior to the visit consistently were more likely to report that a needed or requested service was not provided (P < 0.001 for all services). Patients with a low level of trust were less satisfied with their care (P < 0.001), were less likely to intend to follow the doctor's advice (P < 0.001) and were less likely to report symptom improvement at 2 weeks (P = 0.03). Conclusions. Patients with a lower level of trust in their physician are more likely to report that requested or needed services are not provided. Understanding this relationship may lead to better ways of responding to patient requests that preserve or enhance patient trust, leading to better outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)476-483
Number of pages8
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2002


  • Doctor-patient communication
  • Doctor-patient relationship
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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