Risk Management Tools & Resources


LEAPing to Better Complaint Management in Healthcare Practices


Dealing with customer dissatisfaction is a reality in every industry, and healthcare is no different. Even healthcare practices that are extremely diligent about patient experience and satisfaction will most likely encounter patient complaints on occasion. For this reason, practices should implement a complaint process that all providers and staff members can understand and follow. Every employee should be prepared to manage patient complaints promptly and according to office protocol.

When a complaint occurs, providers and staff should respond calmly and empathetically, while reassuring the patient that someone is available to help resolve the problem or issue. One simple set of recommendations for complaint management is a common customer service strategy called LEAP, which stands for:

  • Listen: Stop what you are doing and give your undivided attention to the patient. Do not argue with the patient or interrupt with explanations. Repeat back to the patient to affirm your understanding of his/her complaint or concern.
  • Empathize: Identify the patient’s emotions and offer empathy. For example, “You must feel frustrated that you had to wait so long.”
  • Apologize: An apology can go a long way, particularly if a patient has a legitimate complaint. However, even if the validity of the complaint isn’t clear, it is possible to apologize without admitting wrongdoing. For example, “I’m sorry that your appointment didn’t go as you expected.”
  • Plan: Suggest solutions you can offer or strategies to resolve the issue. If you can’t come to an immediate agreement, assure the patient that an appropriate staff member will follow up on the issue. Let the patient know when he/she can expect to hear further from the practice.

The provider or staff member managing the complaint should document the issue, any resolution offered, and the commitment of any follow-up with the patient. The practice will need this information if the patient reports the complaint to the state medical or dental board or subsequently files a malpractice claim. Further, the information documented from patient complaints can serve as an educational opportunity for providers and staff as well as the basis for quality improvement initiatives.

In some instances, patients will not complain directly to a provider or staff member; rather, they might voice their complaints about treatment or services on the internet. To address online complaints, healthcare practices should have a mechanism for monitoring their online presence and managing negative, offensive, or inaccurate information. Although this process can be difficult, a number of risk strategies can help. For more information, see MedPro’s Risk Tips: Managing Negative Online Reviews From Patients

To learn more strategies for managing patient complaints, take MedPro’s free continuing education program "Keep Your Cool: Strategies for (Figuratively) Tackling the Problem of Angry Patients/Families."

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