How to Handle Patient Complaints

It is impossible to make everyone happy all the time, and complaints are bound to happen within the medical field as often as in any other service industry.

Disgruntled patients come with the territory, and while you cannot eliminate potential issues altogether, you can handle them in a way that benefits everyone. Follow these six steps for how to handle patient complaints that will leave patients feeling satisfied and heard.

Listen to them.

As basic as it may sound, this is your first and most important step when dealing with an unhappy patient. Most of the time, people just want to vent their frustrations to someone willing to listen. As you are listening, remember these important things:

  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Remain calm
  • Focus on the problem, not the person.
  • Reward yourself after dealing with a difficult matter.

Be sure to give them your undivided attention, keep eye contact and truly hear what they have to say. Do not argue or pass blame and be sure to control your emotions. Summarize what they have said to you, so they know that you were listening. Remember that your ultimate goal is to retain this patient.

Acknowledge their feelings.

Empathy is vital when it comes to successfully handling patient complaints. Keep in mind that this person is a patient; they may not feel well or just received an unfortunate diagnosis.

Put yourself in the patient’s shoes and let them know that you understand their frustrations presented in this instance. Demonstrate to them that you care and express the patient’s feelings are valid.

[Are your patients leaving? Click here for tips on how to make them stay.]

Ask questions.

Obtain as much additional information as possible to facilitate the investigation of the complaint. Reassure the patient that attention will be given to the concern.

This will best help you and your staff figure out how to handle the complaint and avoid any issues that could arise in the future.

Explain and take action.

Let the patient know that the complaint is being taken seriously and suggest solutions. Explain the situation will be reviewed and discussed among the management. Inform the patient that you will follow up with them after the grievance has been thoroughly investigated.

It is best practice to offer a time frame for when the patient can expect a communication regarding the issue.

Apologize and conclude.

Apologizing to your patient will validate that you accept concern. Don’t confuse this with accepting responsibility or blame, but instead, see it as offering an empathetic way to connect with your patient.

After apologizing, thank patients for taking the time to speak with you and bringing the matter to your attention. Ensure they understand that their satisfaction is your number one priority.

Document complaints.

Make sure your staff is trained to document all complaints, no matter how small. One complaint today could lead to a second next month or next year. Documenting the issue and resolving it will leave a paper trail should you need to prove anything under litigation.

It is crucial that there is a protocol for handling these issues and ensuring grievances are followed internally. If you promised to connect with the patient, be sure to do so promptly.

Patient complaints can be uncomfortable and frustrating but try to stay positive. View complaints as an opportunity to learn and grow as a team. Complaints are part of working in the medical field and should be expected.

How you handle them and learn from them is what will set you apart from the competition. If you have any tips on dealing with patient complaints, please share them on our Facebook page!

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