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What to do if you Get a Complaint

1. Don’t panic

  • Chances are you will get a complaint at some point in your career
  • Your professional obligation is to respond promptly, objectively and respectfully

2. Respond to CDSBC about the complaint

  • Provide a detailed written report addressing each of the concerns raised, bearing in mind that your response will be provided to the complainant
  • For complaints about treatment of a patient, include all patient records, charts and radiographs
  • If records are electronic, put on disc or email to CDSBC – don’t print digital radiographs onto regular paper; they are not diagnostic quality

3. Take a breath and then review the complaint and your response with a trusted colleague (24-hour rule)

  • Minimize emotionalism: be factual, dispassionate, and thorough
  • Don’t blame or be disrespectful of the patient – think about them reading your response
  • You are the one with professional responsibilities, not the patient, no matter how difficult they may be
  • Be judicious and neutral in your response -- the patient will receive a copy of the response for their comment
  • If there are other witnesses to an event complained of, have them prepare a dispassionate, factual account and include it with your report

4. Don’t be afraid to contact the patient/complainant to apologize or see if you can resolve the concerns directly

  • If you weren’t aware of the problem until you got the complaint, this is your chance to deal with the complainant to address the concern
  • It is inappropriate to induce the complainant to ‘withdraw’ their complaint
  • If appropriate: 
    - apologize – if only for the fact there was a negative experience in your office
    - advise of steps that you will take to address concerns to ensure it doesn’t happen again
    - offer to refer for second opinion, fix, refund money, etc.

5. Reflect on what you can learn from the complaint

6. If there is a claim against you, notify your insurer


Content in PDF format available here: What to do if you get a Complaint