Over the last 18 years, we have seen that trust has shifted from authorities to peers and back again; the credibility of CEOs has risen and fallen, and business has begun to rival NGOs as the most trusted institution. During the nearly two decades of change, however, one thing has remained the same: levels of trust in the healthcare industry. Lodged squarely in the centre of the pack of all industry sectors evaluated, healthcare generally achieves a level of trust around the high 50s or low 60s (measured as the percentage of people who trust businesses in this industry to do the right thing). This year, a trust score of 63 (globally this represents an overall drop of 2 points) puts healthcare on a par with the energy and telecommunications industries but below manufacturing, retail and transportation, and well adrift of technology.

To address this and gain the public’s trust in healthcare, the industry should look to address the demands of an increasingly global yet polarised world. Rather than participating in the blame game, (which may potentially damage trust in all associated with healthcare rather than clearing any one group from responsibility or perceived wrongdoing), organisations may advance trust by showing that they are part of the solution. This means addressing both unmet patient needs and the costs of care.

There are a number of ways to do this:

·   Be a 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 leverage their own media channels and share their stories through interactive, creative content.

·   Tell the story: Companies should look to win back the trust of the more informed public, as our data show double-digit drops in trust across this population, particularly in markets like the U.S., Germany, Canada, France and Colombia.

·   Sell more than the brand: Patients are looking to health companies to build and create solutions beyond the pill. Our data also show the general population has generally positive sentiment toward the future of health technology. While developing new treatments is expected of the health industry, providing holistic solutions will further build trust.

·   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, goodwill may evaporate at the prescription counter. Health companies should talk about R&D, innovation and hard science – not just profits, sales and marketing.

·   Humanise the approach: Healthcare providers and companies should look to those trusted within the industry – like hospitals and clinics – and determine how they may establish a more personal connection with patients. For example, humanising what happens in the laboratory by showcasing the real scientists behind a breakthrough, or creating a campaign where patients are heard and can contribute rather than just feeling they are simply the target of promotions for a new drug. For the NHS this may mean allowing the front line care providers to tell the story about what change means for patients and their families.

·   Who should tell the story: There are a number of spokespersons who could and should be activated to tell health industry and health provider stories – and the good news is that there are positive trends in the data. Voices of authority are regaining credibility. Expert voices, credentialed authorities are experiencing a resurgence of trust across the board. Experts are having a bright moment because people are leaning toward experts in the search for truth. It is still important to note that peer voices still have a role to play in reaching those who are disengaged.

See below for a summary of our Health Trust Barometer findings: