3 ways to avoid patient complaints

In The Osteopath Feb/March 2015 there was an article, ‘What do patients complain about?’ summarising the information gathered by NCOR about patient complaints in 2013.  Based on this information what can osteopaths do to avoid patient complaints?

1) Make sure you receive informed consent

Every patient you see should be able to leave your practice with a good understanding of what is causing their symptoms and they should be able to explain the agreed plan for how the problem is going to be dealt with.  Consent is an ongoing process relying on good communication between practitioner and patient.  Shared-decision making is imperative in the consent process.  This means allowing your patient to consider their treatment options as explained by you and together forming a treatment plan with agreed goals.  Your patients should understand what you are doing and why throughout your treatments, an ongoing dialogue will avoid any misunderstandings.

2) Explain benefits, risks and expected treatment outcomes

Discuss with your patients the benefits and risks of your proposed treatments.  Inform your patients of the expected response to treatment i.e. a gradual improvement over 2-3 days or tenderness for 24-48 hours.  Patients are really reassured if your predicted outcomes are correct, they will not worry about some tenderness if that is what they are expecting.  If you have told your patient that you expect it to take around 6 treatments to resolve their problem then they won’t be disappointed to be still having symptoms after 2 treatments.  Practitioners sometimes complain there is a lack of data to inform patients of benefits and risks – this is no longer the case.  GOsC together with NCOR have done the research to give us the appropriate data – more about this in a future blog post.

3) Protect your patient’s modesty

Many patients will feel vulnerable in a state of undress. We need to always be aware of this and protect patient’s dignity and modesty as far as possible.  As practitioners we have often lost our inhibitions in this respect through hours of being undressed as students and seeing patients day in, day out.  Nevertheless we need to always remember how awkward this can feel for many patients.  On the other hand patients are usually very happy that someone is actually taking the time to examine and feel the tissues contributing to their symptoms.  How often do we hear patients say that other healthcare practitioners “never even looked at me”.   Cover your patients as far as possible and offer a chaperone.



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