Broker Check

Patients Trust in their Physician: The Third Factor

| December 20, 2015
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Concisely, “Trust” is a function of how patients perceive the following three physician factors:

  1. Physician’s clinical skills
  2. Physician’s Integrity (Do Patient’s “Best Interests” or does pharma/health plans come first?)
  3. Physician’s communication skills

Most patients cannot precisely assess the skill level of their personal doctor. Therefore, we typically default judgment of our physician based entirely upon the doctor’s communication skills. I trust my family physician implicitly. I do not doubt his technical competency or his personal integrity in putting me first. However, a recent visit to him confirmed the interpersonal competency deficit, the third ingredient required for trust that is mentioned here. I now realize that the “Patient Trust” level took a hit. This communication gap was highlighted at the visit in an unusual way.

 At the beginning of the visit my doctor greets me in the exam room and asks if it would be ok if a medical student who was in his third-year clerkship in family medicine saw me instead. My doctor assured me that he would supervise the outcome. I agreed, and in walks a smiling young twenty something year old eager to help. It was just written all over his face: “How can I help you?” The doctor leaves us two alone in the exam room. I was having repeated migraines and was looking for relief. Rather than take my self-diagnosis at face value as my good doctor had in a prior visit, the young medical student proceeds to ask a litany of questions, interspersed with explanations as he engaged me as part of the diagnosis process. As it turns out, I was not having migraines at all, but rather tension headaches caused by my stiff neck due to a past accident. The medication I needed was not to relieve my “migraine” headaches, but rather to relieve the stiffness in my neck causing the headaches. With the new medication my headache frequency diminished greatly. The young doc-to-be became my hero! And, to think that I almost became annoyed 10 minutes into his questions!

Trust issues the same with Financial Advisors

Financial Advisors I would contend have the same three trust factors with their clients as a Physician has with his/her patient. Most of my clients have no idea what the difference is between an AAMS, CIMA, CFP, or CLU designation is (I will spare you the 50 or so other….these are the more common!). Most would not be clients nor stay clients unless they felt I had their best interests at heart. Just as with physicians, the differentiating factor of course is the communication skills factor.

The Downside of Experience

Experience makes us lazy sometimes. As experienced physicians and as experienced financial advisors we often think we know the answer in the first couple of minutes when dealing with a patient or client. We have seen it all before hundreds of times.

However, as my personal experience with the third year medical student shows, going back to basics, asking questions, listening, and holding off any diagnosis or solution until all the facts are gathered is good best practice, whether you are a physician or a financial advisor. My Mom once told me: “God gave you two holes to listen and one hole to speak. Use them accordingly!”

We could all benefit from that advice.

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