Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Patients Less Likely to Pursue Lawsuits

Fewer LawsuitsPhysicians with low patient satisfaction survey scores are sued more often than those receiving top scores. Other studies suggest that no more than 17% of malpractice claims really involve medical negligence resulting in injuries - the rest come from other motivations like overall dissatisfaction.

Patients who believe their physicians really care about them almost never give serious consideration to suing - even in the face of a bad medical outcome. Communicating to patients that they truly are your highest priority requires top-notch customer service.

Who needs patient satisfaction surveys anyway? Far too many physicians neglect to ask their patients, “How are we doing?” Perhaps they fear the answers they’ll read - more likely, they just don’t recognize how valuable “customer” feed-back can be. Regular patient satisfaction surveys are more than a “marketing” tool - they’re a risk-management tool.

And while the very act of asking patients how you can improve the practice communicates your concern, the proof is in the follow-through. Asking for scores, comments, and suggestions becomes laughable to patients who never see any improvement.

Improving your processes, training and motivating your staff to provide good service, and making your office as comfortable and comforting as possible aren’t even half the picture, though. The real truth of the matter is this: Lawsuits grow like mushrooms where anonymity and lack of involvement characterize the practice. A great staff can save a lot of situations, but the burden rests squarely on the physicians’ shoulders to prove they genuinely care about the patients they care for.

So how do you prove it? Here are six tips worth considering. They’re not easy, and they require extra effort:
  1. Personally escort patients from the waiting room to the treatment area. (Experts in production and efficiency may not recommend it, but it will help win a patient’s heart.)
  2. Personally telephone patients with diagnostic test results.
  3. Personally send condolence letters to family members if one of your patient dies. (Caution: Check with your malpractice insurer or attorney to make sure you don’t accidentally make an “admission against interest.”)
  4. Make sure you and your staff afford patients as much privacy and dignity before, during, and after physical examinations as possible.
  5. Learn the art of apology—especially in the case of a bad outcome. Learn how to express your concern and sorrow, without actually increasing your risk through an implied (or explicit) admission of legal liability. Refer to
  6. Consider waiving fees if a patient experiences an adverse medical outcome. (Caution: Check with your insurer or attorney before doing so.) Every one of these techniques represents a hassle -notice how many of them include the word, “personally.” But that’s what friends do for one another. And almost nobody sues a true friend.

If you enjoy reading the blog entries in "Solving Problems in the Medical Practice" you may want to check out all the great products at Greenbranch Publishing.

photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

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