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.
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ABSTRACT: The incidence of complaints about health care has been rising. Reviewing the reasons why patients complain and how hospital staff respond to them can participate in an evaluation of quality in health care. There is a dearth of published information on complaints handling. In order to analyse complaints handling, we surveyed complaints referred to hospital managers in two French hospitals over one year: characteristics of complaints and characteristics of responses made to complainants. We used a scale for 10 criteria evaluating the responses to complaints. A total of 115 complaints were analysed. Complaints mainly concerned the communication, the quality of medical care, waiting delays, and inadequate bills. Consequences of dissatisfaction included loss of confidence and refusal to pay the bill. Complainants wanted an explanation, their bill to be reduced, or something to change after the complaint. Most complainants wrote to the hospital manager. Hospital managers answered, using medical information as a basis for their responses. Median response time was 23 days. Interobserver agreement on evaluation criteria was almost perfect, substantial or moderate for 8 of 10 criteria. Major weaknesses of the responses were their lack of comprehensiveness (52%), the absence of intention to investigate (50%) and to act (77%), and of practical support (51%). The response of hospital managers misinterpreted the medical information given by the physician concerned in 5 (11%) of 45 cases. We suggest that quality of complaints handling should be improved, possibly through the systematic reception of complainants by a physician not involved in the patient's care.Journal of forensic and legal medicine 05/2013; 20(4):242-7.
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ABSTRACT: To assess differences in patient satisfaction between a complaints procedure designed towards the needs of complainants (referred to here as the 'Committee') and a procedure that primarily aims at improving the professional quality of health care (referred to here as the 'Board'). Patients' experiences and satisfaction were assessed through a questionnaire completed by 80 patients complaining to a Board and 335 to a complaints Committee. Only complainants with a complaint that was judged to be founded or partially founded were included. Only half of the complainants reported being satisfied with the procedure they underwent. After controlling for differences in respondent characteristics, satisfaction with the Board was higher than with the Committee. The level of variance explained, however, was low (3%). The majority of respondents reported favourably on procedural aspects, for example, the impartiality of the procedure, and empathy demonstrated for their situation. Only a minority of complainants in both procedures believed that changes would be made as a result of their complaint. The absence, in the eyes of most complainants, of tangible results of filing a complaint in both rather formal procedures may serve as an explanation for both the low level of overall satisfaction and the fact that the procedure which was developed specifically for patients did not perform better. To resolve the problem of low satisfaction with complaints handling, procedures should be developed that offer a basic degree of procedural safety. But this procedural safety should not stand in the way of what complainants really want: changes for the better.Journal of forensic and legal medicine 05/2013; 20(4):290-5.
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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; · 2.39 Impact Factor