1Orthopaedic Hand and Upper Extremity Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
2Dell Medical School, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA
Background: Patient concerns represent opportunities for improvement in orthopaedic care. This study’s objective is to identify the nature and prevalence of unsolicited patient complaints regarding orthopaedic care at a tertiary referral hospital. The primary null hypothesis that there are no demographic factors associated with complaint types was tested. Secondarily we determined if the overall complaint number and types differed by year. Methods: Complaints to the hospital ombudsperson by orthopaedic patients between January 1997 and June 2013 were reviewed. All 1118 complaints were categorized: access and availability, humaneness and disrespect, communication, expectations of care and treatment, distrust, billing and research. Results: Patients between 40 and 60 years of age filed the most complaints in all categories except distrust (more common in patients over age 80) and research. Women were slightly more likely to address access and availability, humaneness, disrespect, and billing compared to men. The overall number of complaints peaked in 1999. The most common issue was access and availability followed by communication, and humaneness/ disrespect. Conclusion: Half of concerns voiced by patients addressed interpersonal issues. The largest category was related to access and availability. Quality improvement efforts can address technology to improve access and availability as well as empathy and communication strategies.