Saturday, 28 May 2016

Handling patient complaints

Roger Watson, Editor

'Patient complaints are considered a valuable source for quality improvement in health care. Moreover, patient satisfaction is an important issue for healthcare providers to fulfil their caring duties, to ensure patient safety and also for compassionate clinical nursing. In Sweden, the number of healthcare complaints is growing despite an increased patient focus in health care. In 2015 a new law was enrolled in Sweden – The Patient Act (2014:821) – that aims to reinforce and clarify the patients’ position and facilitate patients’ integrity, self-determination and participation.'

The aim of this Swedish study by Skålén et al. (2016) published in Nursing Open was: 'To describe patient complaints and to examine possible associations between healthcare providers’ statements and reports of satisfaction/dissatisfaction.'  Over 600 complaints were examined.

As the authors say: 'The study included 618 complaints at different clinics from either a patient (67%) or a relative (33%). Most complained by phone (71 5%) and the remaining by letter or e-mail. Most complaints concerned patients aged 20-79 (80%). Patients under the age of 20 or over the age
of 80 were represented in roughly equal proportions. A greater proportion of complaints concerned female patients (57%) than male patients and more women than men lodged complaints regarding themselves (60% vs. 40%). The most frequent category of relatives who lodged complaints were mothers (30%) followed by daughters and wives. The share of complaints at different clinics agrees well with the share of patient visits at each hospital clinic while primary care had a smaller proportion. In some cases, there were lodged complaints about more than one clinic, for example, both primary care and a hospital clinic.'

The authors conclude: 'The results of this study provide novel insights about patients’ complaints that can contribute to a scientific knowledge base and can be applied to facilitate quality improvements in clinical practice. The present results can be used in, for example, nursing education when teaching nursing ethics or for reflection and discussion among nurses in clinical practice. Procedure neglect, untrue explanations, lack of communication, blaming other clinics etcetera indicate that healthcare providers at times neither take their caring responsibility nor their obligation to learn from mistakes/incidents. Mistakes are inevitable, but healthcare providers need to learn a lesson from them, they need to listen and they need to respond in a helpful manner. To improve patient safety and contribute to quality improvement healthcare organizations should insure a leadership providing an ethical culture for receiving complaints and strive for transparency regarding complaints.'

Reference

Skålén C, Nordgren L, Annerbäck E-M (2016) Patient complaints about health care in a Swedish County –characteristics and satisfaction after handling Nursing Open doi: 10.1002/nop2.54


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