This paper explores the nature and reasoning for (dis)trust in Australian public and private hospitals. Patient trust increases uptake of, engagement with and optimal outcomes from healthcare services and is therefore central to health practice, policy and planning.
A qualitative study in South Australia, including 36 in-depth interviews (18 from public and 18 from private hospitals).
‘Private patients’ made active choices about both their hospital and doctor, playing the role of the ‘consumer’, where trust and choice went hand in hand. The reputation of the doctor and hospital were key drivers of trust, under the assumption that a better reputation equates with higher quality care. However, making a choice to trust a doctor led to personal responsibility and the additional requirement for self-trust. ‘Public patients’ described having no choice in their hospital or doctor. They recognised ‘problems’ in the public healthcare system but accepted and even excused these as ‘part of the system’. In order to justify their trust, they argued that doctors in public hospitals tried to do their best in difficult circumstances, thereby deserving of trust. This ‘resigned trust’ may stem from a lack of alternatives for free health care and thus a dependence on the system.
These two contrasting models of trust within the same locality point to the way different configurations of healthcare systems, hospital experiences, insurance coverage and related forms of ‘choice’ combine to shape different formats of trust, as patients act to manage their vulnerability within these contexts.||