Q. When a patient complains, what steps should physicians follow to address the complaints?
A. You’ve heard the saying “you can’t please all of the people all of the time,” and the same is true in medicine. From time to time, physicians experience patient complaints. And as part of the delivery of excellent care and service, it’s important for patients to have a venue to express their complaints.
You may want to provide patients with a written statement explaining your commitment to exemplary service and detailing how complaints may be filed. Risk management experts suggest some key elements for handling complaints:
- Listen rather than interrupting or becoming defensive.
- Show sympathy; acknowledge and accept the patient’s feelings.
- Ask questions to clarify the problem and understand what the patient wants.
- Discuss solutions.
- Take action to implement a solution and make it clear that the patient’s care won’t be compromised by the decision to express a complaint.
- Keep the patient informed of progress toward a solution.
- Provide the name and number of a contact person.
- Document the complaint according to the practice’s policy.
- If appropriate, make changes in practice operations to avoid future patient dissatisfaction.
- Consider distributing periodic patient satisfaction surveys and taking action based on the results of these surveys.
- Tracking and trending complaints may also be a good idea and may reveal areas for improvement. If the practice has a quality improvement program, encourage making complaint data part of the program.
Physicians insured by ProAssurance may contact our Risk Management department for prompt answers to liability questions by calling (800) 292-1036 or via email.