Patient Complaints Emphasize Non-Technical Aspects of Care at a Tertiary Referral Hospital

Document Type : RESEARCH PAPER


1 Orthopaedic Hand and Upper Extremity Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

2 Dell Medical School, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA


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
by year.
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.
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/
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.


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