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How can my practice handle patient complaints?

Physician practices need to navigate the needs of a successful business while ensuring quality patient care. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” can go a long way towards helping build a successful practice. A failure to take patient complaints seriously could result in an official complaint – possibly even leading to an investigation by the state licensing board. When it comes to patient complaints the best approach may be to know the common issues and take proactive steps to avoid falling into the same traps.

Patient complaint #1: Poor bedside manner

One of the most common complaints from patients is that their medical care provider was not kind during the appointment. Although likely crunched for time, it is important your patient does not feel rushed. Take a moment to introduce yourself and anyone else in the room and give the patient time to share any questions or concerns before moving on to the next patient.

It is also important to make eye contact with the patient. You likely have electronic records and will be updating and reviewing these records on a computer or tablet throughout the appointment. Be sure to look away from the screen and into the patient’s eyes regularly to help the patient feel more engaged in their care.

Patient complaint #2: Poor communication

A lack of clear communication can lead to frustration. Whether seeing a patient for an elective procedure or providing care in an emergent situation, another common frustration is a lack of regular updates on the patient’s condition.

Patient complaint #3: A judgmental approach to providing medical care

Patients also file complaints stating physicians treat them as if they are to blame for their medical conditions. Although poor habits like dietary choices and a lack of exercise often contribute to the issue, patients state they “do not appreciate being scolded.” Instead, they would appreciate an understanding discussion with advice on how to change in the future instead of judgement for choices made in the past.