Trust in Healthcare

Edelman’s Trust Barometer saw major fluctuations in trust across the 28 markets we study in 2018.

In health, overall the sector remained trusted globally yet there was a 2-point decline in trust. While this may seem minimal, looking under the surface, the sector declined in 17 of 28 markets. In addition, we saw some particularly large decreases in trust among the informed public in markets such as the U.S., Canada, France and Germany.


To regain footing from this year’s global drop in trust among the general population, the Health industry must address the demands of an increasingly global yet polarized world. Global Health Sector Chair Susan Isenberg breaks down the Edelman 2018 Trust Barometer findings for the Healthcare industry and offers recommendations for rebuilding trust.

Mirroring findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer globally, Healthcare saw major fluctuations in trust across markets, with notable market-specific drops – particularly in the U.S., France and Colombia. Losing trust in 17 out of 28 markets alone is a warning sign not to be ignored.

There was also a drop in trust in the informed public, with double digit declines among the informed public in countries including the U.S., Germany, France, Canada, South Africa and Colombia.

Globally, trust in the five sub-sectors of Health studied (Pharma, Biotech / Life Sciences, Consumer Health, Hospitals / Clinics, Insurance) made minimal progress, if any, when compared to the previous year. On a market level, the U.S. saw the largest trust declines across Health sub-sectors studied since 2015.

The Blame Game: The blame game about the rising cost of healthcare has spread throughout many countries and may have the unintended effect of lowering trust across the entire industry. No health sub-sector is coming out ahead in this ongoing argument, and instead it has served to amplify that healthcare costs are rising with no solution yet in sight.

High Cost of Drugs: While this issue is hottest in the U.S., six-figure drugs have become routine and government bodies in other markets are flat-out rejecting coverage of certain drugs for their citizenry due to fears of bankrupting health budgets.

In fact, we asked which category of health company consumers felt was most responsible for the high cost of care. Pharma, which is the least trusted sub-sector of Health globally, was the most nominated group

Be your own publisher: This year we have global data that show content provided by health companies is viewed as credible, while only 53 percent trust health news reported by the media. This is a clear opportunity for health companies to share interactive, creative content. With the changing media landscape and general distrust in this institution, health companies must leverage their own channels to share their stories.

Focus on Solutions: Rather than participating in the blame game, which we posit hurts trust in all associated with healthcare, organizations may advance trust by showing that they are part of the solution. This means addressing both unmet patient needs and the costs of care.

Be the lab, not the sales force: Our data show that while people tend to trust the Health sub-sectors they associate with promising innovation such as biotech, goodwill may evaporate at the prescription counter. Health companies must double down on messaging around benefits and innovation or run the risk of being overpowered by the pricing outrage cycle. This includes focusing messages around R&D, innovation and hard science – versus profits, sales and marketing.

Treat the whole person: Patients are looking to health companies to build and create solutions beyond the products they sell. Our data also show the general population has largely positive sentiment toward the future of health technology. While developing new treatments is expected of the health industry, providing holistic wellness and disease management solutions will further build trust.

Localize and humanize your approach: Despite the global footprint of many healthcare companies, communications and activities must be tailored locally – by country and by audience, meeting local standards and local expectations. One size does not fit all in global communications. Healthcare companies should also look to those trusted within the industry, like hospitals and clinics, and determine how they may establish a more personal connection with patients.