Unhappy Patient – What To Do
We got a call a few weeks ago from a practice manager of a surgeon’s office asking for advice. She had received a call from an angry patient following the receipt of a bill for $100 and was asking that the surgeon call her. The patient made various accusations against the surgeon while speaking to the office manager and indicated she should not have to pay the $100.
It was advised that the surgeon call the patient back after reviewing her chart so, if required, he could explain what was done and why. The surgeon had a lengthy compassionate conversation with the patient who ended up being very satisfied with the surgeon’s explanation. A patient will usually not bring a claim against a doctor when they feel the doctor has their best interest at heart.
Physicians and their staff will most always benefit by making the effort to manage patient expectations. It creates structure and process with the outcome of patient trust and confidence in you and your staff. Managing expectations can start before the patient presents to your office. A practice website and educational brochures are very helpful. The informed consent should provide disclosure of both generalized and serious risks. For example, an informed consent for fracture treatment should include high risk complications such as a non-union or leg-length discrepancy. There should be a separate consent for each procedure.
If the patient is still not happy and threatens to sue and you know that you have provided quality care, you do not have to comply with the request to omit their bill. We don’t encourage you to write them off. You may want to display a sign at the check-in area stating that each patient is responsible for understanding the terms of their insurance coverage. If, however, you do decide to write off a patient bill, please contact us if we can help you draft a Release Waiver to send to the patient.