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A renowned Slovenian doctor wrote about trust in medicine in his latest column: “Medicine that is inaccessible automatically creates distrust, resentment, and accusation. No communication strategy can change that.”

He goes on to say that trust in medicine is not created because of excellent medical scientific articles, but because access to a doctor is the most convenient solution in the case of illness.

So we trust what is accessible to us.

The faces of (in)accessibility

Examples from (Slovenian) healthcare illustrate the different types of accessibility, such as:

  • Financial accessibility: “Numerous studies, especially those in the US - where stark differences exist in the accessibility of healthcare - demonstrate this very plainly. There, people with low income who do not have the appropriate access to healthcare services have less trust in medicine and a poorer opinion about the ethics of healthcare workers,” emphasizes the author of the column.

  • Systemic accessibility: the number of people without a designated family doctor in Slovenia has risen to over 130,000.

  • Situational accessibility: a recent example from Velenje and lengthy waiting times indicate that even patients with designated family doctors do not actually have sufficient access to doctors.

  • Personal accessibility: the average doctor’s appointment lasts 9.3 minutes, which does constitute physical access, but brings up the question of human accessibility.

Whom do we trust?

About a decade ago, the authors of the study Trust in Slovenian Management expanded on Barber’s ideas, who proposed three key elements for measuring the value of trust in a given person or institution:

  1. Competence as the ability of a person or institution to do something or not.

  2. Will as the willingness and desire of a person or institution to do something or not.

  3. Morals as the ability, willingness and desire of a person or institution to do something (or not) in accordance with social norms and expectations.

People tend to trust those who can do what is expected of them, who want to do it and do it for the greater good and not for their own gain.

So, is mere accessibility enough for us to trust someone?

Source: Barber, B. (1983). The logic and limits of trust. New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press.


About me

I help organizations manage challenging and complex communication issues.


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