How NOT to get sued: Risk Management Tips Part 1

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Jan 28, 2019

The everyday details of how a patient is greeted, the condition of the waiting room, and the professionalism of staff can make a big difference in patient satisfaction and even outcomes. Patients who are treated with courtesy and respect are less likely to form negative impressions, more likely to follow treatment plans and recommend the practice to others. And it can’t be overemphasized that patients who are happy with the way they are treated by physician and staff are less likely to file a claim for a real or perceived grievance.


American Physicians Risk Management Self-Assessment Checklist

Ask yourself these questions -


1.        Is the practice clean, neat, and well maintained?

2.        Is an air treatment method used to maintain fresh air quality?

3.        Are magazines/brochures current and relevant to the patient population?

4.        Are patient education materials, videos, and/or medical resource materials available? Staff may encourage patients to use their waiting time productively by providing educational materials.

5.        Do staff members greet and introduce themselves, including their positions, to patients/visitors from check-in through check-out?

6.        Are staff provided with or required to wear professional attire in the practice, including nametags with their name and position/title?  

7.       Do staff members assist and accompany very young, old, infirmed, or disabled patients?  

8.       Do staff members eat only in non-patient areas? Patients often complain that food odors, such as popcorn, broccoli, and fish are nauseating.

9.        Do staff members keep track of arrival and departure times so patients waiting more than 15 minutes receive an explanation? This is worth the effort and focuses attention on an important patient satisfaction issue. While some waiting may be unavoidable, the patient should never be allowed to feel “forgotten.”

10.   Are personal conversations limited to non-patient areas?

11.   Are conversations conducted in a low volume tone, inaudible to those in patient areas?

12.   Does your staff provide courteous, clear, and understandable instructions and solicit feedback from patients?

13.   Are staff members trained in customer service?

14.   Are staff members educated in handling patient complaints to promote positive relationships? Whether the issues are real or perceived, patients want to be heard. Patients complain when they are dissatisfied with care or treatment, or when it does not meet their expectations. This may be your first indication of a problem, and your last opportunity to salvage the relationship. Training helps staff feel more comfortable assisting patients with problems.

15.   Are patients’ health concerns treated seriously and with empathy?

16.   Is modesty and patient privacy respected by closing the examination room door, and is a chaperone present?

17.   Are clear instructions regarding emergencies provided by your answering system? It is a good idea to periodically call your after-hours patient line to evaluate its effectiveness.



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