Remedies sought and obtained in healthcare complaints.
ABSTRACT In the wake of adverse events, injured patients and their families have a complex range of needs and wants. The tort system, even when operating at its best, will inevitably fall far short of addressing them. In Australia and New Zealand, government-run health complaints commissions take a more flexible and expansive approach to providing remedies for patients injured by or disgruntled with care. Unfortunately, survey research has shown that many patients in these systems are dissatisfied with their experience. We hypothesised that an important explanation for this dissatisfaction is an 'expectations gap'; discordance between what complainants want and what they eventually get out of the process. Analysing a sample of complaints relating to informed consent from the Commission in Victoria (Australia's second largest state, with 5.2 million residents), we found evidence of such a gap. One-third (59/189) of complainants who sought restoration received it; 1 in 5 complainants (17/101) who sought correction received assurances that changes had been or would be made to reduce the risk of others suffering a similar harm; and fewer than 1 in 10 (3/37) who sought sanctions saw steps taken to achieve this outcome initiated. We argue that bridging the expectations gap would go far toward improving patient satisfaction with complaints systems, and suggest several ways this might be done.
- BMJ quality & safety 09/2011; 20(9):735-7. DOI:10.1136/bmjqs-2011-000343 · 3.28 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Plastic surgeons and other doctors who perform cosmetic procedures face relatively high risks of malpractice claims and complaints. In particular, alleged problems with the consent process abound in this area, but little is known about the clinical circumstances of these cases. We reviewed 481 malpractice claims and serious health care complaints resolved in Australia between 2002 and 2008 that alleged failures in the informed consent process for cosmetic and other procedures. We identified all "cases" involving cosmetic procedures and reviewed them in-depth. We calculated their frequency, and described the treatments, allegations, and outcomes involved. A total of 16% (77/481) of the legal disputes over informed consent involved cosmetic procedures. In 70% (54/77) of these cases, patients alleged that the doctor failed to disclose risks of a particular complication, in 39% patients claimed that potential lack of benefit was not explained, and in 26% patients allegations centred on the process by which consent was sought. Five treatment types-liposuction, breast augmentation, face/neck lifts, eye/brow lifts, and rhinoplasty/septoplasty-featured in 70% (54/77) of the cases. Scarring (30/77) and the need for reoperation (18/77) were among the most prevalent adverse health outcomes at issue. A mix of factors "supercharges" the informed consent process for cosmetic procedures. Doctors who deliver these procedures should take special care to canvas the risks and possible outcomes that matter most to patients.Journal of Plastic Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery 05/2012; 65(11):1506-12. DOI:10.1016/j.bjps.2012.05.004 · 1.47 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVES: (1) To determine the distribution of formal patient complaints across Australia's medical workforce and (2) to identify characteristics of doctors at high risk of incurring recurrent complaints. METHODS: We assembled a national sample of all 18 907 formal patient complaints filed against doctors with health service ombudsmen ('Commissions') in Australia over an 11-year period. We analysed the distribution of complaints among practicing doctors. We then used recurrent-event survival analysis to identify characteristics of doctors at high risk of recurrent complaints, and to estimate each individual doctor's risk of incurring future complaints. RESULTS: The distribution of complaints among doctors was highly skewed: 3% of Australia's medical workforce accounted for 49% of complaints and 1% accounted for a quarter of complaints. Short-term risks of recurrence varied significantly among doctors: there was a strong dose-response relationship with number of previous complaints and significant differences by doctor specialty and sex. At the practitioner level, risks varied widely, from doctors with <10% risk of further complaints within 2 years to doctors with >80% risk. CONCLUSIONS: A small group of doctors accounts for half of all patient complaints lodged with Australian Commissions. It is feasible to predict which doctors are at high risk of incurring more complaints in the near future. Widespread use of this approach to identify high-risk doctors and target quality improvement efforts coupled with effective interventions, could help reduce adverse events and patient dissatisfaction in health systems.BMJ quality & safety 04/2013; 22(7). DOI:10.1136/bmjqs-2012-001691 · 3.28 Impact Factor