Building trust is important in the relationship between doctors and their patients, but it can be a fragile thing. In this episode of Off the Charts, we talk with Toweya Brown-Ochs, the director of diversity and inclusion at HealthPartners. She discusses how the impact of what people say is often more important than the intent and what it takes to be an ally in the fight against racism. Listen to the episode or read the transcript.

Building trust with patients

Trust starts building up from someone’s first interaction with their care team. Each time a patient has a positive interaction, they make a small deposit in their trust piggy bank. When they have a negative interaction, that trust is withdrawn from that bank. The goal is to build as much trust as possible so mistakes and miscommunications don’t bankrupt you.

As Toweya says, “We are learning, we are ever-changing, but we really need to start from understanding the patients, the members, the community in which we serve... Being equal and just consistent is not the same as being equitable. And we need to be equitable to the areas that we serve based on what they need, not just what we have.” Getting to know patients and addressing their personal, specific needs can help grow trust.

Intent vs. impact

When talking about trust, it’s important to understand the difference between intent and impact. Intent is what someone means to achieve through an interaction, whereas impact is how their words or actions affect the other person. For example, a nurse explaining why a patient didn’t need to come into the hospital might intend to help the patient avoid large hospital bills, but the impact may be that the patient feels unwelcome.

Considering how your actions might impact the other person can help you build trust. Toweya and the hosts of Off the Charts talk about how to approach intent and impact.

What sets apart true allies

Racism, transphobia and other biases in the health care system make marginalized groups less likely to open up to their doctors. Toweya often hears people say they want to be an ally, but what does that mean?

To her, an ally is someone who does more than supports BIPOC-owned businesses and shows up to Black Lives Matter rallies. An ally educates themselves on the issues to understand why things are offensive, how to confront others and how to show up for the communities they support. Allies need to prepare themselves to speak up.

Listen to the episode to learn more about being a true ally, building trust with patients and why impact matters.