No medical practice is immune from complaints from patients. As the owner of a medical practice, it would be most unusual to not have received any sort of complaint, whether big or small, about your medical practice, your staff members, or even you yourself.

It is important to handle these complaints well, because no matter how trivial they may seem at first, they have the potential to ruin the reputation of your medical practice. No matter your personal feelings about the matter, it is important to not overlook or ignore any complaint, even if logged at a particular staff member who has acted perfectly professionally thus far. Moreover, if the complaint is justified, you must be ready to take action – especially if this is a repeat occurrence.

In order to handle the matter professionally and also ensure the complainant does not feel slighted, be sure to follow these steps:

Thank the patient

Be sure to always thank the patient for notifying you, especially if you have not grasped the situation fully yet. Reassure the patient that the complaint will be taken seriously, and you will ensure that it will not happen again. This will help to lessen some of the dissatisfaction the patient may be feeling at the time.

Assess the complaint

Is this the first time that patients complained about this staff member?

One thing to consider is if this is the first time that the staff member has been accused of misconduct. If it was a one-off incident, there is a strong possibility that this is a minor occurrence, whether due to the staff having a bad day, or carelessness, or whatnot. However, if patients have complained about the staff member multiple times, it is important to observe him or her to see if there is a change in their behaviour when they are dealing with patients as compared to communicating with you.

Has more than one patient complained about the staff member?

If only one patient who complained about the staff member, it might be bias on the patient’s part for whatever reason. However, if more than one patient has complained about the same staff member, it is time to look at the complaints more thoroughly, and try to identify the common points – if the same observations were made multiple times, it may be worth investigating the situation more deeply.

What do the other staff members know about the complaint?

Sometimes, doctors work so closely with their staff that it becomes necessary to take a step back in order to see the situation for what it really is. If the staff member has not been acting professionally, there is a huge chance that other staff members would have witnessed it. Ask around discreetly at your practice to find out what the other staff members have seen, and most importantly be sure to listen attentively to what they have to say with an open mind.

However, you must also remain objective and not base all of your judgment on their words alone. Note down your own observations about the staff member. After which, compile all the observations made by yourself and others regarding the particular staff member, then compare notes to get a clearer picture of the situation. 

Confront the staff

Once all the needed information has been gathered, get ready to confront the staff in a professional way. Have an open, heartfelt discussion with the staff member about the complaints. Communicate in a way that expresses your concern about the staff member’s situation, but also make sure to impress upon him or her that you are serious about your expectations from your staff members. If, after this discussion, the warranted change is not observed in that staff member and complaints continue, consider bringing in other resources for a discussion, e.g. workplace counselling, or if necessary, start planning for a change of staff.

Patients can lodge complaints about all sorts of reasons. Some are unreasonable, some are biased, but oftentimes some may have a sliver of truth in them. It is important for you to review all these complaints in a serious manner, and take appropriate action after thorough investigation. Not only is this important to protect the reputation of your medical practice, but it is also to ensure that your patients and other staff members are treated fairly and respectfully. MIMS

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