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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Connecting Complaints to Satisfaction

Published June 12, 2014 9:02 AM by Lisa Mueller
I read an article last year about the top 10 reasons why people make an appointment with their doctor and was surprised to see skin issues as the number-one driver. What an interesting topic to consider; why do we make decisions to see the doctor? Even more, how can we use that information to capture patients at the right time and provide them with the service they need? In this example, plopping a medical clinic in the middle of a busy city with no onsite dermatologist could result in many patients being turned away.  

I did a lot of research last year in an effort to establish an updated questionnaire for patient satisfaction surveys relating to physical therapy. I found questions like, "Did your condition improve as a result of physical therapy?" and "Did your physical therapist communicate with other members of your healthcare team regarding your condition?" Many of the questions I found or developed were about topics such as ease of scheduling appointments, friendliness of staff, and cleanliness of the facility. I was happy with a lot of the content within the patient survey.

At every clinical rotation I had during physical therapy school, I learned something about the patient feedback or complaint process. Each clinical instructor I had taught me about the importance of listening to patients and being a part of any needed solutions to prevent a complaint in the future. Developing these skills to understand active listening, timely follow-up, and even conflict resolution were critical so early in my career. My fellow ADVANCE bloggers have described many situations with dissatisfied patients and families and we are all equipped with the communication tools to help our patients understand our role, their goals and the plan to move forward.

I'm beginning to wonder what the best way is to balance our focus on patient complaints and the drivers for patient satisfaction. A patient may complain about food at a hospital, but later reveal on a satisfaction survey that the quality of food minimally impacted his experience compared to the quality of care, safety and professionalism of the staff. Patient feedback may give us insight into an inefficient process or attention to a facility we weren't aware was broken. Knowledge is power -- how do we take all this information from our patients and turn it into an improved patient experience?

What do you think? How do you field patient complaints at your facility? Do you see themes of common complaints? What is more important to focus on, the things that make patients happy, or the things that make them upset?

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What I find telling in your narrative is you describe the rationale for listening to patients as a way to prevent a complaint. That is a focus on the negative. Change the wording to "a way to improve the patient's journey" and then you might see an interesting drop in complaints and a happier workforce.

Dean Metz June 12, 2014 1:30 PM

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