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Patient Complaints

Sam Ashoo, MD and Mizuho Morrison, DO
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Patient complaints may reveal medical errors and may escalate to litigation. Be sure whatever process you have in place has been developed in conjunction with your risk management department or insurance carrier. This allows for an “early warning” system to be in place for your malpractice insurance company when litigation is possible. 

 

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clay j. -

His is a helpful and thoughtful piece.

I wonder if you could comment on one thing i am curious about. You mentioned someone should be delegated to respond to complaints, and usually this is the service director via some correspondence with hospital staff that receive them.

Do you think the individual doctors should be informed of all complaints regardless of the nature of complaint? I find in my experience that very few of the pt complaints are helpful, act as feedback, or are actionable. And many are flatly too biased to be interpretable at all.

I agree with addressing them all, and apologizing for their experience, but in light of the many contributors to burn out, one of which are a large proportion of these complaints, do you think we should protect the doctors from someof these via some screening and adjudication process by the director or someone delegated to the process?

What types of complaints should the doctors be informed about?

Asking for a friend ;)

Neda F., MD -

Hi Clay. I checked in with Sam Ashoo, and here is his response. As a side note, I give you a shout-out in the free chapter of our October episode being released tomorrow! :) -- Neda

"Excellent question! You raise a great point. It has certainly been my experience that all complaints do not make good feedback to the provider. As medical director I often screened these and filtered what I thought were the important points brought up by patients. I do not think every single complaint needs to be brought to the providers attention. However, I DO believe that there is utility in providing aggregate information. For example: Dr X had 25 complaints this year while his partners had 10. That’s not coincidence. Some of them might be “frivolous” but those should be evenly distributed among providers working the same number of hours and seeing the same number of patients. So, while I might not bring every complaint to a provider verbatim, I do make a point of intermittently informing them of the number and type of complaints I am receiving.

As to what types of complaints warrant a discussion with a physician? That is a judgement call, and one that can be made based on the content of the complaint. Medical errors and misdiagnosis are easy. Personality conflicts require more information and tracking to determine a pattern. Using your judgement is appropriate, but don’t make excuses for bad behavior (provider’s or the patient’s).

Hope that helps! Write back if it doesn’t :)
Sam"

clay j. -

excellent. my feeling is that the adjudication of these can be left to the directors (or whoever is delegated to dealing with these) discretion. But I think some people have different styles Ive seen over years as we hand over the director positions. My opinion is that the frivolous complaints do nothing but worsen physician burn out and dont offer much opportunity for improvement or learning, whereas some of them certainly are worth reflecting on. Appreciate this segment, this is a HARD part of the job that no one really likes.

Thanks for the reply and the segment.

And NEDA!! I listened to the PC-AKI segment, and i loved it. Thanks for the shout out!

Much love,
clay

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Primary Care Gets Some Love Full episode audio for MD edition 196:25 min - 92 MB - M4AHippo Primary Care RAP - August 2019 Written Summary 659 KB - PDF

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