It is not uncommon for patients to be dissatisfied with a healthcare facility’s services. In fact, as demand for health care has risen sharply in the past few decades, there’s also been an uptick in levels of dissatisfaction in medical services. 

But whether an issue is justified or the patient appears to be acting irrationally, either way, you must address it the right away. If not, things might get out of hand, leading the organization to fall into disrepute. 

In case you are not well-versed in dealing with patient complaints, the following strategies will help: 

1. Avoid Confrontation

While handling patient complaints, the first thing you should avoid is becoming defensive or aggressive. Given the situation, you might feel compelled and justified in losing your wits in favor of the emotions you are feeling, but you will do better to withhold any reactions. 

Confronting someone in the same vain will only lead to a further escalation and may cast doubts on your professionalism. This will force them to switch to other practitioners as well as scare away your existing and any potential clientele. 

2. Demonstrate Empathy With the Patients

Nothing is more frustrating than spending time explaining why you are upset only to be met with chilly indifference. Saying something as simple as “I understand why you are unhappy with the service” to a complaining patient may be sufficient in order to defuse the situation even if you had no control over the factors that precipitated it. 

Showing empathy is also one of the most sought-after leadership qualities in the nursing industry. So if you aspire to Become a Nurse Administrator, nurturing this skill will help you greatly.

3. Listen Carefully 

An irritated patient seeks your attention. If they want to vent their feelings about the poor service at your hospital, the rational thing would be to let them. In not interrupting or telling your patients to stay mum about it, you might find that the patients will feel like they’re listened, which is going lead them to choose more rational ways of expressing their dissatisfaction. 

While you are listening, do not tap the pen in your hand or take deep sighs. By doing so, you will only come across as frustrated and impatient. Seek clarification and note down the responses after you are confident the patient is done speaking. 

4. Take Their Complaint Seriously

Just as you should avoid being overly emotional in your responses to patients, you should also avoid responding too lightly to their queries. The reason being, it might convey that you are not taking their concerns seriously. Patients might be justified in expressing their dissatisfaction about something if they are making the effort to approach the management. So don’t make light of their complaints or pass snide remarks to brush their complaints away.

5. Do Not Draft a Complicated Response

Since a whopping 47 percent of American adults lack intermediate health literacy, they might not understand your medical jargon-laden responses. What is worse, they might misconstrue your responses as condescending or that you are looking down on them by displaying your superior understanding. 

Of course, you would want to establish credibility by demonstrating knowledge, but do it a way that isn’t condescending. You can do this by answering them in simple language, and avoiding the use of jargons at all cost. 

6. Resolve Their Issues As Soon As Possible

After calmly hearing their complaints, you should make the effort to resolve them quickly. Typically, most of the issues can be easily addressed in little to no time. With that said, there can always exceptions. So if the matter is complex and not easily or immediately fixable, communicate the hurdles to speedy resolution with the patients. 

While you may occasionally require the assistance of coworkers to resolve some issues, most complaints can be taken care of by simply connecting the patients with the management. If this is the case, arrange a meeting with the management and explain the intricacies of the situation so that they can play their part in resolving it. 

7. Document the Complaints

Always document patient concerns by following the complaint procedure, regardless of the scope of the issue. Complaint procedure gives you a detailed set of steps that you can follow in documenting or even resolving patient complaints. You can go by the book and resolve most of patient complaints on the spot, simply by following the steps detailed in the complaint procedure. 

Also, keep track of the meetings, phone conversations, and the bullet points that you can gather from each conversation and meeting, so that you are top of everything. 

8. Demand Respect

If a patient starts name-calling or engages in other unacceptable behavior, patiently explain that you are respectful in your behavior and want the patient to behave in like manner. You may also need to take a break from the scenario to give the patient sufficient time to calm down. If you need assistance handling the situation, get counsel from a coworker.

9. Offer a Sincere Apology

Apologizing to a patient will show that you understand their concerns. This is not the same as taking blame or accepting responsibility for no rhyme or reason. Instead, think of it as a method to reconnect with your patient in a supportive way. 

For example, saying stuff like, “We are sorry for extending your wait time?” or, “Can we have a doctor contact you later today to answer your questions?” will restore the composure of the patient in most cases.

10.  Be Proactive In Your Approach

Frequently ask your patients how they are doing rather than waiting for them to complain to you. There are several ways of doing this. For instance, inquire them about their health at their checkout time. Compile surveys and spread them on online platforms to extract potential loopholes in your healthcare structure or processes. Make it clear to your patients right from the get-go that their complaints are important to you, and that you want them resolved as much as them. 

11.  Train Your Customer Service Representatives  

You have probably had a negative customer service experience at some point in your life. For most people, calling a local cable company is generally the first thing that springs to mind. The reason for this is that utilities are ranked as the three poorest businesses in terms of customer satisfaction. Guess what? The healthcare industry is right at the top of this list.

So what are the characteristics of an excellent customer service? Well, it is when a representative immediately connects with the patients, does take their problems seriously, attentively listens to what the patient is saying, and finally reassures the patient that it will resolved. 

Wrapping It Up 

Patient complaints are unavoidable if you are working in healthcare. But while you may not be able to completely eradicate all of them, you can surely tackle some in a professional manner. In this blog, we listed efficient techniques for handling patient complaints. So, use these suggestions the next time a patient complains.


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