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Avoid patient grievances through good communication

Patient grievances regarding unprofessional conduct in your office can easily lead to an inquiry from the licensing board, which is something that no physician wants to happen. Fortunately, many grievances are avoidable if you take the right steps.

Poor communication between a patient and your staff is at the root of many problems. To avoid unnecessary grievances and facilitate better communication with patients, use the following tips:

1. Talk about the need to communicate.

The best way to let your staff know what you expect is to discuss the issue on a regular basis. Schedule time in your weekly staff meetings to address issues that have come up -- and ones that can be imagined. The more you emphasize a culture of communication and service, the more it will stay on your staff's minds when they're on duty.

2. Stress the importance of empathy.

Your staff needs to keep in mind that most of your patients are coming to see you because they're sick or in pain. They may be frightened or frustrated just being there. What your staff finds routine, a patient may find bewildering and overwhelming. Encourage your staff to see situations from a patient's point of view.

3. Draw attention to nonverbal communication.

All the words in the world won't erase the negative perceptions created by one ill-timed roll of the eyes by a nurse. Talk with your staff about the way their body language, gestures and tone can affect a patient's perceptions of their treatment.

4. Stress constant professionalism.

Make it clear to your staff that it is never appropriate to make negative personal comments about a patient -- even one that is being unnecessarily difficult. Even in private, it's important to keep their tone and words professional.

5. Encourage acknowledgments of regret.

Help your staff understand that many situations with patients can be diffused simply by saying, "I'm sorry you're frustrated (or upset). What can I do to help?" Giving an angry patient space to address his or her complaint may help you find a quick resolution -- one that doesn't involve an administrative law proceeding.

Unprofessional conduct is a serious concern for medical boards -- so do what you can to mitigate the issue in your office by addressing the issue head-on with your staff.

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