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Managing complaints against a physiotherapy practice

in All Physio Blogs, Physio Business/Marketing, Clinical Physio
27 Aug 2020  |  0 Comments

Managing complaints against a physiotherapy practice | Guild Insurance | Physiotherapy Indemnity Insurance

Managing complaints against a physiotherapy practice

Receiving complaints is part of running any business, including physiotherapy practices. No business is immune to receiving complaints, regardless of its success or level of customer focus. It can be easy to see complaints as personal criticism rather than constructive feedback. However, positive outcomes can arise from appropriate management of complaints.

Why do people complain?

There are many reasons patients might complain about your practice and the service they’ve received. Sometimes you can see a complaint coming; sometimes it takes you by surprise. Understanding why people complain can assist with better managing them, and potentially reduce the likelihood of further complaints. Here are some reasons why people may feel the need to complain:

  • High expectations – consumer expectations of professional services are increasingly high. Your patients pay for your service and likely see you as a highly trained and qualified professional, which can influence their expectations of the service and outcomes.
  • Unrealistic expectations – some patients may have unrealistic expectations of physiotherapy. It’s important to remember that most patients won’t have the clinical knowledge you do, and what’s obvious or common sense to you may not be to them. Practitioners must ensure patients are clear on their treatment and the outcomes they can realistically expect.
  • To inform and be heard – patients may complain so they know you and your staff are aware of what occurred and how they feel. They may complain simply to be listened to and acknowledged, especially if they have been adversely impacted. Not all complaints lead to a formal demand for compensation.
  • Belief that someone is responsible – when something goes wrong, we often try to determine who’s responsible. Sometimes someone is obviously responsible, sometimes it’s hard to determine who’s responsible, and other times there is no single person responsible but simply an unfortunate situation. However, if a patient thinks something went wrong and this caused them harm, it’s possible they complained with the intention of holding someone responsible, or liable.

The importance of managing complaints

Sometimes, it’s tempting to ignore a complaint and hope it’ll go away. Maybe the patient won’t follow up. Maybe it won’t occur again. This is a short-sighted way to run any business as there are clear benefits to appropriately managing complaints.

Generally, patients expect to see their complaint dealt with quickly and fairly. When this doesn’t happen, further complaints may follow, and the issue could become much greater. Complaints may also escalate to AHPRA or another regulatory body.

Managing complaints appropriately is part of good customer service. You rely on patients to keep your business afloat. Unhappy patients can talk with their feet by not returning, whereas satisfied patients are more likely to continue using your service and recommend your practice to others.

Complaints can provide an opportunity to review and improve your service, as they may highlight an issue you weren’t aware of. When investigating the complaint, the practice may consider a procedural change to avoid that issue arising again.

How to manage complaints

Every physiotherapy practice should have a complaints policy, with an agreed-to process for complaints to be dealt with fairly and consistently. This helps staff know what to do, which is important as handling complaints can be challenging.

Listening well is a key aspect of handling complaints. Where possible, make time to sit down in a quiet space and let them express their concerns. Make the effort to hear what they have to say and take it onboard. You may not agree with everything they say, but it helps to understand the situation from their perspective. Avoid being defensive or taking the complaint personally as this may inflame the situation.

With minor complaints you may be able to offer a solution there and then. However, this won’t always be the case. With more serious complaints you should provide the person with assurance that you’ll investigate the matter and provide them with a response when you can.

Guild Insurance expects our customers not to admit liability (or name someone else as being at fault), or to offer any compensation without contacting us first. We’ll provide advice to help you manage what can be an upsetting situation. This support can mean the difference between sorting a problem quickly and escalating to a serious claim.
Don’t wait till a complaint escalates – be sure to contact Guild Insurance for the right advice. If you aren’t with Guild, call us on 1800 810 213 to sign up today.

Guild Insurance Limited ABN 55 004 538 863, AFS Licence No. 233 791. This article contains information of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute the provision of legal advice. PHY114580 Physio Hub Managing Complaints 06/2020.

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