Even though the direct consumer purchase transaction is not typical in a physician-patient relationship, that does not mean that service should go by the wayside. Physicians need to listen to patients’ needs and be responsive to patients’ complaints.
As a physician, I know that providing great medical care is a constant challenge. It involves long work hours, being on call, continuing medical education, and too many business and regulatory issues. Many doctors hang by a thin thread, and a patient complaint pulls hard on that thread. Unfortunately, we don’t have a service desk like Best Buy where we can direct all complaints, concerns and returns that don’t work out! Maybe we should.
There is some wonderful advice for doctors on how to manage patient complaints in an article by a dermatologist, Joseph Eastern, M.D. I’ve adapted here:
- Put systems into place to prevent patients from having something to complain about. Give patients prompt, attentive, thorough care in a pleasant, friendly environment.
- When patients do complain, don’t take it personally (even if it is). Consider the complaint a gift, something that will help you to give better care in the future.
- Before doing anything else, contact the patient personally and ask him or her to describe what happened. Listen carefully. As you listen, remember, the patient is helping you.
- Ask the patient how the issue could be rectified to their satisfaction. Often, it will be very easy. In fact, more often than not, by showing how much you care about the patient and listening to his or her complaint, you will have already solved much of the problem.