Consumer Reports surveyed 1,000 Americans regarding the typical complaints they have about their doctors and the No. 1 grievance was “unclear explanation of problem.”
That is a rather sobering thought. Many would guess the most popular complaints were waiting time or inconvenient office hours. Those complaints were on the list; however, those pale in comparison to the lack of communication between patient and physician.
Each person surveyed was offered a list of common complaints and asked to rate the intensity of the complaint on a scale of one to 10. One meant the patient was not bothered at all and 10 meant most intense.
Unclear explanation from the physician garnered the top spot with an average score of 8.3. Rounding out the top five most common patient complaints were:
- Rushed during an office visit (7.8)
- Side effects from medication not fully explained (7.6)
- Long wait for the doctor in exam or waiting room (7.6)
- Inconvenient office hours (6.5) and
- The doctor takes notes on the device, not looking at the patient (6.2).
While the majority of complaints are inconvenient and non life threatening, but unclear explanations from a physician can be fatal. We know there are more patients in the world than doctors; however, we can’t see a patient as just a number. We can’t do the 10-minute meet and greet, ask a couple of questions, order lab work, prescribe some medication and move on to the next patient.
“There should be the thought of accountability and expectations on behalf of the patient,” says Dr. Thompson H. Boyd, a physician liaison at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. “The patient has to be a contributing member of the care team, not just a bystander.”
A key to correcting the most common complaint is better care through communication. A strategy to combat poor communication between patient and physician is implementing a teach-back method. This is a way to confirm the information you have provided the patient has been understood by him/her.
A patient’s understanding is confirmed when they are able to explain back the instructions and strategies you offered for their treatment. Remember this is not a test of the patient’s intelligence. It is to confirm you have explained treatment and medication clearly and concisely and thus improving the odds of a positive patient outcome.
A few sample questions to ask in implementing the teach-back method after you have shared your thoughts are:
- “I want to be sure that I explained your medication correctly. Can you tell me how you are going to take this medicine?”
- “We covered a lot today about your condition, and I want to make sure I explained things clearly. So let’s review what we discussed. What are three strategies that will help you control your condition?”
- “What are you going to do when you get home?”
The teach-back or “show me” method takes some extra time, but in the long run, it benefits both the patient and your practice.
Now you have the No. 1 patient complaint tackled, you can focus on the other common complaints, and partnering with Sequence Health can help correct those grievances.
By implementing our boutique medical call center and 24-hour NurseLine, we can help your patients stay engaged. We also can help with wait times by making patient intake more efficient. Visit us at Sequence Health or call 888.986.3638 to schedule a demo.
With Sequence Health, together we can transform care in the new year.