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Factors influencing trust in doctors: a community segmentation strategy for quality improvement in healthcare
  1. Vijayaprasad Gopichandran,
  2. Satish Kumar Chetlapalli
  1. School of Public Health, SRM University, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, India
  1. Correspondence to Dr Vijayaprasad Gopichandran; vijay.gopichandran{at}


Background Trust is a forward-looking covenant between the patient and the doctor where the patient optimistically accepts his/her vulnerability. Trust is known to improve the clinical outcomes.

Objectives To explore the factors that determine patients’ trust in doctors and to segment the community based on factors which drive their trust.

Setting Resource-poor urban and rural settings in Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India.

Participants A questionnaire was administered to a sample of 625 adult community-dwelling respondents from four districts of Tamil Nadu, India, chosen by multistage sampling strategy.

Outcome measures The outcomes were to understand the main domains of factors influencing trust in doctors and to segment the community based on which of these domains predominantly influenced their trust.

Results Factor analysis revealed five main categories, namely, comfort with the doctor, doctor with personal involvement with the patient, behaviourally competent doctor, doctor with a simple appearance and culturally competent doctor, which explained 49.3% of the total variance. Using k-means cluster analysis the respondents were segmented into four groups, namely, those who have ‘comfort-based trust’, ‘emotionally assessed trust’, who were predominantly older and belonging to lower socioeconomic status, those who had ‘personal trust’, who were younger people from higher socioeconomic strata of the community and the group who had ‘objectively assessed trust’, who were younger women.

Conclusions Trust in doctors seems to be influenced by the doctor's behaviuor, perceived comfort levels, personal involvement with the patient, and to a lesser extent by cultural competence and doctor's physical appearance. On the basis of these dimensions, the community can be segmented into distinct groups, and trust building can happen in a strategic manner which may lead to improvement in perceived quality of care.

  • Public Health
  • Social Medicine

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