Preventing Complaints From Turning into Med Mal Claims

Physician with Patient in Hospital BedLike most physicians, we believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is particularly true when it comes to patient complaints. Did you know that many med mal claims stem from patient complaints –not necessarily medical errors?

What can be done to prevent a patient complaint from turning into a med mal claim? I recently came across a nice article discussing this topic on, entitled, “How to Prevent a Complaint From Becoming a Lawsuit.” Essentially, a physician wants to prevent a patient complaint from escalating.

First, the article suggests having a grievance policy. But, the policy alone won’t be helpful in preventing med mal claims unless staff and patients are aware that it exists and that it is taken seriously.

We here at also believe strongly that taking patient satisfaction seriously can go a long way towards preventing med mal claims. That is why we have developed our own Patient Satisfaction Survey System for our physicians. And, we, too, believe that good office policies and procedures are necessary. That is why we have also developed our own free Office Policies and Procedures Manual, again for our physicians.

The article suggests giving all patients a copy of the grievance policy upon check-in and posting the phone number of an appropriate individual to call with a grievance, questions or concerns. Usually, this is the practice administrator, quality/compliance officer, or risk manager. It also suggests making patient complaint forms available to patients. Most importantly, patients should be told that action will be taken to remedy the situation –not just that the complaint will be heard and/or acknowledged.

The article goes into further detail regarding “Your Office’s Grievance Process,” the the most common kinds of patient complaints seen, and even provides a sample grievance policy. It is worth the read.

Taking the time to implement a thoughtful patient complaint/satisfaction policy in your practice can go a long way towards preventing patient complaints from turning into med mal claims.

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