The formation of patient trust and its transference to online health services: the case of a Dutch online patient portal for rehabilitation care

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Abstract

Background: Trust is widely recognized as a crucial factor in successful physician–patient communication and patient engagement in treatment. However, with the rise of eHealth technologies, such as online patient portals, the role of trust and the factors that influence it need to be reconsidered. In this study, we aim to identify the factors that contribute to trust in an eHealth service and we aim to identify the consequences of trust in an eHealth service in terms of use. Methods: The Patient Trust Assessment Tool was provided to new outpatients of a rehabilitation center in the Netherlands, that were expected to use the center’s online patient portal. Via this tool, we assessed five trust-related factors. This data was supplemented by questions about demographics (age, gender, rehabilitation treatment) and data about use (number of sessions, total time spent in sessions), derived from data logs. Data was analyzed via Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling. Results: In total, 93 patients participated in the study. Out of these participants, 61 used the portal at least once. The measurement model was considered good. Trust in the organization was found to affect trust in the care team (β =.63), trust in the care team affected trust in the treatment (β =.60). Both, trust in the care team and trust in the treatment influenced trust in the technology (β =.42 and.30, respectively). Trust in the technology affected the holistic concept trust in the service (β =.78). This holistic trust in the service finally, did not affect use. Conclusions: This study shows that the formation of this trust is not unidimensional, but consists of different, separate factors (trust in the care organization, trust in the care team and trust in the treatment). Trust transfer does take place from offline to online health services. However, trust in the service does not directly affect the use of the eHealth technology.

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van Velsen, L., Flierman, I., & Tabak, M. (2021). The formation of patient trust and its transference to online health services: the case of a Dutch online patient portal for rehabilitation care. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-021-01552-4

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