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Parent-doctor trust in the internet age

For physicians, there are many unique aspects to providing medical care to children. One is the important role the level of trust between a doctor and a child’s parents plays in such care.

There are many things that can affect how much trust parents have in their child’s doctor. This includes what happened in any past legal matters the doctor was involved in, such as matters involving potential disciplinary actions from the state’s medical board. These matters can heavily impact a doctor’s reputation, which can have significant impacts on parent trust. This contributes to the great importance how legal matters are handled can have for doctors who regularly care for children.

Another thing that can have implications on doctor-parent trust is modern technology. In today’s internet era, one thing parents sometimes do when they think their child is sick or hurt is look up information online on conditions they think their child may have. Recent research indicates that such behavior by parents could have impacts on how much trust a parent has in the diagnoses their child’s doctor gives after seeing the child.

In the study, 1,347 parents were given a hypothetical regarding a kid showing certain symptoms, and were then told a doctor’s diagnosis. Some of the parents were given some information to look at on computer screen shots prior to being told the diagnosis. Some of these individuals were given information on the condition that would ultimately be given in the diagnosis. Others were given information on a different condition.

After being given the doctor’s diagnosis, all the parents were asked how much trust they would put in the diagnosis.

The study found that the parents that were shown information on the condition that was ultimately diagnosed generally showed greater trust in the doctor’s diagnosis. Meanwhile, it found that the parents who had looked at information on a different condition than the one diagnosed showed a lower likelihood of trusting the diagnosis.

These results point to what information parents look at prior to taking their kids into a doctor possibly having considerable implications on parent-doctor trust. In today’s era where there is a lot of information (both good and bad) on medical matters out on the internet, this could pose challenges for doctors when it comes to building up parent trust. What do you think are the best ways for doctors to respond to these challenges?

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