Measuring Trust in Primary Care

Original Scholarship
Primary Care

Policy Points:

  • Trust in primary care clinicians is essential for effective patient care and is associated with better health outcomes, but it is rarely assessed, and existing measures have not been thoroughly evaluated.
  • This scoping review reveals that research assessing patients’ trust in primary care clinicians largely stopped more than a decade ago but offers candidate measures for future testing, implementation, and policy applications.

Context: Trust is a fundamental aspect of any human relationship, and medical care is no exception. An ongoing, trusting relationship between clinicians and patients has shown demonstrable value to primary care. However, there is currently no measure of trust in general use, and none endorsed for use by most value-based payment programs. This review searched the literature for any existing measures of patient trust in primary care clinicians and assessed their potential to be implemented as a patient-reported outcome measure.

Methods: A keyword search on PubMed along with scanning references was conducted to find any trust measures in health care. Measures that did not address primary care clinicians were eliminated and the remaining measures were then assessed for their utility to primary care.

Results: This purposeful, scoping review found four tested measures for assessing patients’ trust in primary care clinicians that are candidates for general use. Of these four, the revised Trust in Physicians Scale and Wake Forest Physician Trust Scale are the most tested and viable options.

Conclusion: Renewed national interest in trust in health care should focus on the capacity to measure it. This review informs the effort to test trust measures for use in research, practice improvement, and value-based payment. Measuring trust, how it relates to outcomes, and learning how it is produced or lost are key to assisting practices and health systems toward earning it.

Open Access


Merenstein Z, Shuemaker JC, Phillips RL. Measuring Trust in Primary Care. Milbank Q. 2023;101(3):0511.