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Building trust in our industry

Carolyn PaulFor the last 18 years the Edelman Trust Barometer has tracked levels of trust across the world in the four institutions of business, government, media and NGOs. During that time 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 depressingly the same: disappointing levels of trust in the healthcare industry.

Lodged squarely in the centre of the pack, 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 puts healthcare on a par with the energy and telecommunications industries but below manufacturing, retail and transportation and well adrift of technology, the most trusted industry sector which scores 75 this year.

Digging deeper and looking at the pharmaceutical industry as a sub-sector of healthcare, the picture is even more grim. The percentage of people who trust the pharmaceutical industry to do the right thing has fluctuated only slightly in recent years and in 2018 was only 54. Indeed, pharma is the only sub-sector within healthcare to buck an upward trend. The other sectors (hospitals/clinics, health insurance, consumer health and biotech/life science) have all gained trust with hospitals/clinics leading the charge with a nine-point increase since 2015, reaching a high of 72 this year.

Other findings of the Trust Barometer do provide some consolation though, in suggesting how pharma might go about repairing its reputation. Media is now the least trusted institution and only 53% of people trust the media to report accurate information about healthcare. In contrast, the credibility of information provided by health companies about medical conditions and their treatments is far higher at 64%. This suggests that, within regulatory constraints, there is a role for pharma to become trusted publishers of healthcare information.

In a similar vein, this year’s data showed a resurgence of trust in voices of authority. As people search for the truth in the era of fake news, credentialled voices such as the company’s own scientific experts and academics are regaining their role as trusted spokespeople.

Perhaps this year’s Trust Barometer findings indicate that the pharma industry can leverage its scientific credentials and its medical expertise to carve out a role as a trusted source of health information. The phrase ‘added value’ has been discussed in healthcare for many years but perhaps by taking a role as more of an advisor as well as a provider, the pharma business can begin to deliver added trust too.

Carolyn Paul is global managing director, health and European health chair at Edelman

In association with


24th May 2018

From: Sales



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