Remedies Sought and Obtained in Healthcare Complaints

ArticleinBMJ quality & safety 20(9):806-10 · September 2011with18 Reads
DOI: 10.1136/bmjqs-2011-000109 · Source: PubMed
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.
    • "Articles were excluded for a range of factors, for example, not having extractable quantitative data,19 20 providing inexact data on complaint issues21 or focusing primarily on patient goals of complaining.9 22 "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background Patient complaints have been identified as a valuable resource for monitoring and improving patient safety. This article critically reviews the literature on patient complaints, and synthesises the research findings to develop a coding taxonomy for analysing patient complaints. Methods The PubMed, Science Direct and Medline databases were systematically investigated to identify patient complaint research studies. Publications were included if they reported primary quantitative data on the content of patient-initiated complaints. Data were extracted and synthesised on (1) basic study characteristics; (2) methodological details; and (3) the issues patients complained about. Results 59 studies, reporting 88 069 patient complaints, were included. Patient complaint coding methodologies varied considerably (eg, in attributing single or multiple causes to complaints). In total, 113 551 issues were found to underlie the patient complaints. These were analysed using 205 different analytical codes which when combined represented 29 subcategories of complaint issue. The most common issues complained about were ‘treatment’ (15.6%) and ‘communication’ (13.7%). To develop a patient complaint coding taxonomy, the subcategories were thematically grouped into seven categories, and then three conceptually distinct domains. The first domain related to complaints on the safety and quality of clinical care (representing 33.7% of complaint issues), the second to the management of healthcare organisations (35.1%) and the third to problems in healthcare staff–patient relationships (29.1%). Conclusions Rigorous analyses of patient complaints will help to identify problems in patient safety. To achieve this, it is necessary to standardise how patient complaints are analysed and interpreted. Through synthesising data from 59 patient complaint studies, we propose a coding taxonomy for supporting future research and practice in the analysis of patient complaint data.
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