Build Trust in the Sponsor of a Health Care Quality Report

Focus group research consistently indicates that the public is wary, and legitimately so, about the sources of data on the performance of health care plans and providers.[1] They are fully aware that some of the health care information available to them is inaccurate or misleading. Since many health plans, hospitals, medical groups, and other providers advertise their quality, consumers are often suspicious of any quality report that appears to promote one organization over another.

This means the report sponsor has to make a clear case that it is both expert and unbiased. If the sponsor is already well known and has this reputation, you simply need to make it clear who the sponsor is. But many organizations that sponsor reports are far from being household names (as yet). They need to build a brand as a reliable and convenient source of useful information about health care quality.

How To Communicate Legitimacy and Trustworthiness

On the front page of your report, include your name and a brief mission statement that emphasizes your expertise and independence. Refer the reader to an “inside page” with more information:

  • Explain why you issued the report. You may want to emphasize that you are trying to help people make a good choice for them, rather than leading them to one particular choice or another. If appropriate, mention that you are concerned about improving health care for the whole community.
  • Consider providing additional information about the nature of the sponsoring organization and the other organizations that have endorsed the report.

Publicizing Endorsements

The credibility of your report can be enhanced by endorsements from an array of organizations. While consumers might not trust a report on local physicians that is sponsored by the local medical society, for example, they are still pleased to find out that the report has been endorsed by the society.

Many sponsors today are “multistakeholder” entities, such as Chartered Value Exchanges and Aligning Forces for Quality grantees. (Learn more about Chartered Value Exchanges and the Aligning Forces for Quality program). These types of organizations are in a great position to get endorsements from a range of stakeholders to reinforce their legitimacy. Other sponsors can do the same thing through effective outreach efforts.

[1] These studies, like much formative research to design reports, have not been published. The studies have been to support reports on various CAHPS surveys, on the AHRQ Quality Indicators, on hospice quality measures, and on nursing quality measures. They have been done with consumers across the United States, from different age groups, ethnic groups, and educational levels.

Also in "Communicating Key Information Upfront"

Page last reviewed November 2018
Page originally created February 2015
Internet Citation: Build Trust in the Sponsor of a Health Care Quality Report. Content last reviewed November 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/talkingquality/explain/communicate/trust.html
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