Public trust of physicians in China improved since the COVID-19 pandemic Began

Changle Li, M. Mahmud Khan, Zhuo Chen

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Rationale: Public trust in physicians had declined in China for decades before the COVID-19 pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline physicians have experienced high work volume despite a high risk of COVID-19 infection. The willingness of physicians to treat COVID patients with a high risk of exposure to the infection may have improved public trust in physicians. Objective: This study analyzes how public trust in physicians has changed since the pandemic started using a nationally representative survey. Methods: We used the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS), with 179,123 respondents 10 years or older who were eligible to answer the question on public trust in physicians from 2012 to 2020. Public trust has been measured by an 11-point Likert scale. A quasi pre-post study design using a segmented regression impact model was used to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public trust in physicians. Results: At the start of the observation period, the average public trust score was 6.86 out of 10.00. The immediate unadjusted change of mean score for public trust during COVID-19 was significantly higher (Coef. = 0.361; 95% CI = 0.359, 0.364). Moreover, a significant increase in the unadjusted trend during the COVID-19 pandemic was observed in the mean score for public trust (Coef. = 0.005; 95% CI = 0.004, 0.006). The results were similar to the estimates obtained when we adjusted for demographic characteristics and health status. Conclusions: The mean score for public trust increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study provides a new perspective on restoring public trust in physicians, a significant concern of the Chinese healthcare system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social and mainstream media helped to establish the “good doctor” image, which may have improved patients’ trust in physicians. Improving health literacy through effective communication and education may help increase public trust in physicians.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115704
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume320
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Keywords

  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • China
  • Public trust in physicians

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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