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Patient Complaints

Mizuho Morrison, DO and Sam Ashoo, MD
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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.

Pearls:

  • Apologizing doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong, rather, it shows empathy by acknowledging the patient had a difficult experience.

  • Remain calm and do not escalate

 

Listen

  • Set the stage for addressing a patient’s complaints by finding a quiet atmosphere where no one is going to interrupt you.

  • Make sure that you avoid interrupting the patient and avoid distractions in order to give the patient you undivided attention.

  • Make sure that the person you have in calling your patients is the right person for the job. Are they calm, quiet, and able to sit and listen?

 

Pay Attention

  • Listen  attentively and take note of what the patient is saying.

  • If you're doing this in person, pay careful attention to your body language.

  • Poor body language can come off as being completely disinterested, impatient, annoyed or, at worse, hostile toward the patient.

  • You must know the circumstances surrounding the complaint in order to engage in accurate dialogue with the patient and in order to understand their complaints.

  • Asking open-ended questions can help to avoid coming off as confrontational.

 

Apologize

  • Apologies are appropriate almost all of the time.

  • This person has had a terrible experience and by apologizing you demonstrate empathy in acknowledging the lengths to which they have gone to lodge a complaint.

  • An apology does not admit to malpractice or that anything was done wrong.

  • It also goes a long way to acknowledge what the patient has to say and to recognize they are frustrated and angry.

 

Remain Calm

  • Patients or family sometimes record the encounter so remain calm and composed.

  • If things escalate remove yourself from the situation, even temporarily, then come back to the conversation to bring closure.

 

Follow Up

  • If there is something else that needs to be addressed (i.e. you need to go talk to another provider, you need more information from the patient's chart)  be specific with the patient as to how long that process is going to take and who is going to be contacting them again.

  • Overestimate how much time you need and then deliver early.

  • If the specifics of the complaint do not require any further information from the patient they need to know that as well.

 

Documentation

  • Maintain a separate database that is HIPAA compliant and secure for quality assurance purposes in order to keep a thorough record of specific complaints.

 

Risk Management

  • If you are concerned that a specific complaint is going to become a lawsuit, get your insurer involved early.

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ID Killers Full episode audio for MD edition 206:50 min - 97 MB - M4AHippo Urgent Care RAP - June 2019 Written Summary 405 KB - PDF

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