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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 22  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 10-12

How to satisfy a dissatisfied patient

Gujarat Burns Hospital and Research Centre, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Date of Web Publication15-Dec-2014

Correspondence Address:
Prahlad Kumar Bilwani
Gujarat Burns Hospital and Research Centre, Nava Vadaj Road, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-653X.146995

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After postgraduation when a surgeon settles down in practice, just the theoretical knowledge does not help him. He has to imbibe certain qualities such as good manners, hard work, good convincing power in explaining the operative procedure and expected results. Besides he has to be very tactful in dealing with a situation when some unfortunate complication occurs. This presentation comprises some important tips a surgeon should know to keep his patients satisfied and avoid litigations.

Keywords: Complication, dissatisfied patient, litigation

How to cite this article:
Bilwani PK. How to satisfy a dissatisfied patient. Indian J Burns 2014;22:10-2

How to cite this URL:
Bilwani PK. How to satisfy a dissatisfied patient. Indian J Burns [serial online] 2014 [cited 2023 Jun 9];22:10-2. Available from: https://www.ijburns.com/text.asp?2014/22/1/10/146995

  Introduction Top

Most of the corporate bodies teach their newly appointed executives/sales persons on the subject "How to satisfy the customers." However, this subject is neither included in the medical curriculum nor discussed at any stage during undergraduate and postgraduate training. As a result, quite often even highly talented doctors fail to succeed in practice. Every patient expects the best from his/her doctor. He expects his doctor to be humble, noble, and social, law abiding, decent looking, always available on his phone call, always smiling and last but not the least, charging lowest. It is difficult for a doctor to cultivate all of these qualities in the right measure and adhere to them all the time. However, if he remembers and follows certain points he can satisfy most of the patients.

Hereunder I have discussed some salient points a doctor should pay attention to in order to keep his patients satisfied and to save himself from unfortunate litigations.

1. A doctor is required to satisfy primarily his patient however quite often it is necessary to see that the patient's relatives and friends too are satisfied/convinced with the treatment being given. This can be achieved by frequent sittings with them and explaining about the disease, progress in the treatment and expenses. Frequent discussions will avoid misunderstandings. A doctor working in a corporate hospital or trust hospital has also to ensure that the hospital authorities/trustees are satisfied with his overall performance and behavior with the patients.

2. Good quality of work and pleasant manners contribute the most in giving long lasting positive impression on others. In fact, this is the key to success for a doctor.

3. When there is a complication, some doctors look at others and try to find a scapegoat. This practice does not help in the long run. One should graciously admit that a complication has occurred and should put their heart and soul and try to rectify it.

4. Infection is the most common complication in surgical practice. When this occurs, one should do introspection to find out the cause of infection such as improper sterilization, improper closure of wound, leaving dead space or foreign body inside, etc.

5. An incomplete history, a hasty physical examination, wrong patient, wrong amputation, and wrong diagnosis are some of the common mistakes, which one may make by not following standard protocols. Wrong selection of operative procedure (like doing flap surgery when problem can be solved gracefully with a skin graft) is also a common mistake.

6. Just as we say speed causes road accidents, similarly speed in operation theatre too causes accidents. Each surgeon has to remember that the patient is primarily concerned about the final results and not the duration of the operation.

7. After the OT list is finalized, it is risky to fit extra cases (to accommodate some VIP) and make the list exhaustive. This forces the surgeon to work under undue time pressure to finish more operative procedures during fixed OT hours, thereby inviting complications.

8. A surgeon should spend more time with the patient. This shall not only boost confidence in the patient, but it may also reveal some facts in history, which can affect the final results such as history of diabetes, hypertension, and ongoing medication of aspirin etc. Neurotic patients, depressed patients and old patients deserve more time from the treating doctor.

9. Poor communication with the patient and his relatives is the commonest cause of dissatisfaction. With experience, one learns about what to communicate, when to communicate, whom to communicate, what not to communicate and how to prepare documentation of communication.

10. There is no substitute to hard work particularly for junior doctors. Initial hard work always pays in the long run earning the surgeon a good name and a flourishing practice.

11. One should try to understand the expectations of the patient right in the beginning. If it is not possible to give results as desired/expected by the patient, one should not operate. The surgeon should explain to the patient and relatives the possible results by drawing sketch diagrams on plain paper. It is only when the patient is ready to accept the expected results; one should go ahead with surgery.

12. While taking consent from the patient for surgery, he should be made aware of the different options available for treatment and the possible complications and results expected in each option. Patient should be given an opportunity to discuss in depth all options and to decide the final option, all in consultation with the operating surgeon.

13. Three complications are never accepted - neither by the patient nor by the court of law. They are (1) untold complication, (2) disability and (3) death. Every effort should be made to avoid them.

14. A surgeon should keep updating his knowledge through books, continuing medical educations, workshops, and conferences. This shall keep him ahead in this world of competition and perfection.

15. Do not hesitate to give your cell phone number to your operated patient. He shall get the feeling that you are available to him at a call distance.

16. When some unfortunate complication occurs, the patient is likely to get angry and agitated. He has every right to show dissatisfaction and anger on such occasion. This is a very delicate situation and the doctor has to handle it very carefully. The doctor should never get angry otherwise the situation will worsen. He should calmly listen and reassure the patient. Silence is golden rule. If the doctor's behavior is good and sensitive, the patient generally becomes quiet after letting out his anger.

17. When a patient is operated under local or regional anesthesia, the doctor and nurses should remember that though the patient's face is covered, he is listening to every voice/sound in the theater. It has been found that quite often the doctor or nurse gossips on the phone or indulges in loose talk forgetting that the patient is hearing them. This leaves a very bad impression on the patient. Every patient rightfully expects the full undivided attention of the whole operating team during his surgery.

18. Often a patient's usual complaints are related to pain, unhygienic conditions in the hospital, noisy air conditioners, casual reply of nurses and lack of transparency in bills. If these issues are properly sorted out, the patient is bound to get satisfied.

19. Rejoicing secretly on someone else's professional mistakes is wrong. Remember next time it may be your turn.

20. Some patients are the rude and pushing types. They quarrel off and on. Be careful and handle them tactfully. If he praises you, you are probably third or fourth in his shopping list.

21. If a patient comes to you with a genuine complain, its best you accept it and try to rectify the problem.

22. Try and build a good cordial relationship with the patient right from the outset. You should appear as his good friend. Remember to address them by their name and mention his name a couple of times during the conversation.

23. Never desert the patient when a complication occurs. Rise to the occasion and continue being friendly to him.

24. Even VIP patients should be treated at par with non-VIP patients. This shall infuse a feeling among the patients that you treat all of them equally.

  Summary Top

A doctor can avoid problems with the patients by adhering to the under mentioned 3 C's mantras.

1. Care - Take proper care of the patient.

2. Communication - Communicate adequately with the patient and relatives.

3. Considerations - Financial considerations should be reasonable and satisfactory.


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