Good working relationships: how healthcare system proximity influences trust between healthcare workers

Trust between healthcare workers is a fundamental component of effective, interprofessional collaboration and teamwork. However, little is known about how this trust is built, particularly when healthcare workers are distributed (i.e., not co-located and lack a shared electronic health record). This study from HIP Investigators Dr. Christie Bartels and Dr. Meghan Brennan interviewed 39 healthcare workers who worked with proximal and distributed colleagues to care for patients with diabetic foot ulcers and analyzed transcripts using content analysis.

Generally, building trust was a process that occurred over time, starting with an introduction and proceeding through iterative cycles of communication and working together to coordinate care for shared patients. Proximal, compared to distributed, dyads had more options available for interactions which, in turn, facilitated communication and working together to build trust. Distributed healthcare workers found it more difficult to develop trusting relationships and relied heavily on individual initiative to do so. Few effective tools existed at the level of interprofessional collaborations, teams, or broader healthcare systems to support trust between distributed healthcare workers. With increasing use of distributed interprofessional collaborations and teams, future efforts should focus on fostering this critical attribute.

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