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J Healthc Manag. 1998 Sep-Oct;43(5):397-414; discussion 415.

Trust between managers and physicians in community hospitals: the effects of power over hospital decisions.

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  • 1University of Connecticut, USA.


Trust is a key element of effective work relationships between managers and physicians. Despite its importance, little is known about the factors that promote trust between these two professional groups. We examine whether manager and physician power over hospital decisions fosters manager-physician trust. We expect that with more power, managers and physicians will have greater control to enforce decisions that benefit the interests of both groups. Subsequently, they may gain confidence that their interests are supported and have more trust for each other. We test proposed hypotheses with data collected in a national study of chief executive officers and physician leaders in community hospitals in 1993. Findings indicate that power of managers and physicians over hospital decisions is related to manager-physician trust. Consistent with our expectations, physicians perceive greater trust between the two groups when they hold more power in four separate decision-making areas. Our hypotheses, however, are only partially supported in the manager sample. The relationship between power and trust holds in only one decision area: cost/quality management. Our findings have important implications for physician integration in hospitals. A direct implication is that physicians should be given the opportunity to influence hospital decisions. New initiatives, such as task force committees with open membership or open forums on hospital management, allow physicians a more substantial involvement in decisions. Such initiatives will give physicians more "voice" in hospital decision making, thus creating opportunities for physicians to express their interests and play a more active role in the pursuit of the hospital's mission and objectives.

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