Thursday, January 19, 2012

What to do when a patient complains - a guide from Dr Malpani

Doctors try to do their best to take care of their patients. They work hard and will often put in long hours to make sure their patients do well. However, some patients are sometimes unhappy with the care they receive. Often , this may not be because of any fault on the doctor's part. The patient may be upset about having had to wait too long; or be angry because the receptionist was rude. Some patients have unrealistic expectations - while others want VIP care 24/7 , and expect the doctor to see them first, even when there are other patients who are waiting .

When patients are unhappy, they get upset and complain. Sadly, doctors often do not know how to handle these complaints from patients. However, do remember that medicine is a service profession; and whenever there is a complaint, this is actually an opportunity for service recovery.

Please don't lose your cool or brush the patient off. Try to put yourself in your patients' shoes - patients don't like coming to doctors; and it's easy for them to get upset because they are worried and emotionally fragile.

Please don't make a bad situation worse by refusing to see the patient or pooh-poohing his concerns - this can can quickly snowball and allow a minor issue to escalate until things get ugly.

Try to take the approach that patients are rational; and that most will not complain to you unless they have a very good reason to do so. Every complaint is a gift - and if you spend time and energy on fixing the problem, patients who complain can often become your most ardent advocate.

It's worth spending the time investigating all complaints and fixing the problem. For every patient who complains, there are likely to be ten who keep quiet - but who will walk away and go to another doctor.

It's not possible for a doctor to be present in his clinic and supervise all his staff all the time - and if a particular complaint keeps cropping up ( for example, about a receptionist who is rude), this is a chance to fix this problem before it gets out of hand and creates more damage.

Often , all you need to do is to give the patient a patient hearing. Sometimes the chance to vent; and to hear a simple sorry is all that patients want. Of course, not all problems are so simple, but unless you take all of them seriously, you won't know which ones are serious and which ones are not !
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