NEW YORK—As the Oct. 20 virtual VM Leadership Summit kicked off on Wednesday afternoon, two expert speakers talked about how the pandemic has put patients' trust to the test, and more importantly, how providers can tackle the issue of misinformation and help counter the formidable challenge of rebuilding that trust. In a session titled Rebuilding Trust, Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer for WebMD and Jennifer Hauser, head of Edelman’s Wellness 360 business unit, shared views about how today’s eyecare professionals can build trust with their patients.

Leading off the Summit, themed "Retail and Healthcare: UPENDED!, was Dr. Whyte who has examined the issue of misinformation and the challenge for health care leaders in his influential and award-winning series Coronavirus in Context. Over the past 18 months, he has conducted video interviews with more than 300 experts, ranging from mental health professional Dr. Phil McGraw to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Dr. Whyte said, “We're out there trying to give the best possible advice today, based on the information we have in a pandemic. You don't want to withhold anything that can help people. But at the same time, you don't want to promote things that lack evidence. So there's a fine delicate balance. We need to look for trusted sources of information. And sadly, we're in an environment where there's a tremendous amount of misinformation.”
One of the things that Dr. Whyte learned in the video series is that the pandemic has fundamentally been about trust. “Who do I believe? What experts do I listen to? What should I be reading? Trust. That's the way that we're going to get past this pandemic,” he said.
Next up in the session was a presentation by Edelman’s Hauser who shared key findings from the influential Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual, global survey of consumer attitudes.
Hauser acknowledged that the 2021 Edelman trust barometer and this year’s survey comes at an especially turbulent time, worldwide for trust and certainly a turbulent time for trust in health care. “The headline here, and it's not going to be surprising, is that the pandemic has put trust to the test in ways we never have seen before.
“In the 21 years we've been doing this study, you'll see that some institutions did better than others. And it really starts with business. Business has become the only trusted institution across the four institutions that we measure...NGOs, government and media made up the other institutions. And business really scored high this year across both being competent as well as ethical. In previous years, business has typically come in at confident, but not always ethical. But this year, we really saw a positive story for business.”
When asked by Dr. Whyte what do health care brands need to do to strengthen trust for consumers Hauser said what health care brands really need to be thinking about is a few different things. “The first is that what people care about today is not just themselves, and not just a brand or products, but they care about what's going on in society. And companies and brands, again, are in a unique position, to not just sell their wares or talk about themselves, but to also make a difference in some of the world's most important societal issues.
“And what people are caring about today really comes down to a few points. People care about the environment. People care about diversity and inclusion. And people care about health inequities—all issues, interestingly, that we've experienced over this past year, and I think public health is also something that people increasingly care about.”
The full segment of Rebuilding Trust, along with the other two sessions from Oct. 20 are available On-Demand for registered Summit attendees.
The VM Summit's Oct. 27 program will examine the retail side of things. Vision Monday's Marge Axelrad noted, "We’ll hear about how to re-engage shoppers in creative new ways that employ technology, both in and out of the store for a seamless brand experience. We'll learn about virtual worlds and advanced digital platforms that are emerging and capturing consumers' imagination. And we'll hear from a panel of accomplished professional and optical retail leaders about their own approaches to prioritizing technology in their businesses, and bringing new ideas into practice.
VM Leadership Summit Registration includes attendance to the virtual broadcasts, full access to the VM Summit virtual platform, networking, on-demand viewing, door prizes, and exclusive access to attendees-only content after the event.
The Platinum Sponsors of the 2021 VM Leadership Summit are EssilorLuxottica, Healthy Eyes Advantage-PECAA and VSP Global Premier Program. The Gold Sponsor is The Vision Council's Vision Health Alliance and the Silver Sponsors are Alcon and Ocuco.