Relationship Building 101Customers don’t buy from people they don’t trust, and the same is true in healthcare. As a case manager, you have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the level of trust your clients experience within the system, and therefore the outcomes they enjoy. You’re not just providing a service, but building a relationship with the goal of developing trust.
Over the past several years a proliferation of benefit designs and new delivery systems have moved healthcare beyond a traditional brick-and-mortar office, into retail and virtual settings. Consumers now have more choices than ever before.
Since health is one of the most important assets anyone has, it takes trust to allow someone close enough to effect a change. To impact the lives of others, clients have to be able to trust that you have their best interest at heart and will be their advocate.
The Importance of Trust in Healthcare
One meta-analysis of 47 studies, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, concluded that patients reported fewer symptoms and higher quality of life, as well as greater satisfaction with treatment, when they had a higher degree of trust in their health providers.
Research has also demonstrated open lines of communication between patients and their healthcare providers create a level of trust and those relationships are key to a better outcomes. These results indicate trust also reduces the financial cost to the community and the patient as treatment plans are followed.
To better understand an evolving healthcare landscape, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded grants for 11 research studies. While trust was not the explicit focus, early observations and findings indicate when it comes to making decisions most consumers rely on close personal relationships with their physicians.
Access to trusted sources of information were essential to the patients who participated in these 11 studies. While most report trusting their physicians few reported trusting other segments of the healthcare system. In other words, developing a trusting relationship with your client is vital to developing and implementing an effective and successful care plan.
5 Ways Care Managers Can Build Trust
The optimal delivery of case management services requires promoting a supportive and trusting relationship between providers and patients and with all members of the healthcare team. Here are five strategies you can use to help build trust with old and new clients.
- Respect. In a general sense, our society has lost some of the courtesy and respect that previous generations have shown each other. Raising your own awareness of your clients’ time and needs communicates to them that you respect them. Promptly returning phone calls and emails and holding fast to estimated appointment times are practical ways of communicating respect. This shows clients they can rely on you.
- Target Exceptional Communication. Timely, efficient and respectful communication must be a priority with your clients as this is a primary way you can communicate your own trustworthiness. Maintaining a positive attitude during your conversations, being open and honest, and exuding confidence helps your clients to build trust in their relationship with you. Targeted communication should also acknowledge your client is an individual, with individual needs that can’t be forced into a care plan that doesn’t fit their circumstances. An effective care plan often must include compromises to make execution achievable for your client.
- Share As Much As Possible. Sharing your knowledge and explaining information clearly is the best way to guide clients through the intricacies of healthcare. Strong and lasting relationships are built on trust that you are the expert. This is why it’s crucial you are open with your clients and keep their best interest at heart. It may be tempting to appear agreeable or avoid uncomfortable conversations or confrontations, but this is only counterproductive and can damage your client’s trust with you.
- Listen for Points of Pain and Relieve Them. If you listen closely for the underlying root cause of what is happening with your client you’re going to make your clients life just a little bit easier. This is one way to demonstrate your commitment to helping them improve their health and reach their goals.
- Deliver More Than Expected. You don’t have to deliver something extraordinary, but if you can deliver something more than promised it can add value to your relationship with your client and deepen the trust they have in you. Make a follow-up call when your client doesn’t expect it, drop in to their hospital room just to say hi, listen to their needs and anticipate what they might require when they are discharged. These are little things but they build trust over time.
None of these strategies take a significant amount of time or energy. However, as with all relationships, it isn’t the big gesture that makes the greatest impact, but smaller, consistent actions that develop the best response.
Birkhauer, J., Gaab, J., Kossowsky, J., (2017) Trust in the Health Care Professional and Health Outcome: A meta-analysis. PLOS|One
Brennan, N., Barnes, R., Calnan, M., (September 25, 2013) Trust in the Health-Care Provider–Patient Relationship: a Systematic Mapping Review of the Evidence Base. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 25(6):682
Collado, M., Oakman, T., Shah, M., (September 26, 2017) To Improve Health Care, How Do We Build Trust And Respect For Patients? Health Affairs
Farrell, T., Tomoaia-Cotisel, A., Scammon, D.,(August 2018) Care Management: Implications for Medical Practice, Health Policy, and Health Services Research. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Michelson, K., Trusting Healthcare Providers and Institutions: Key Findings. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University