It’s our job to make people feel better. Health care is serious business, we’re not selling goods, we’re saving lives. It’s easy to understand why a patient might complain if they believe they received sub-par care, after all it’s their health at stake.
Earlier this week a patient called Administration and complained that she did not receive a thorough exam when referred for an ultrasound to rule out a blood clot in the calf of her leg. The patient was upset that the technologist did not ultrasound over the area of her leg that was painful and she did not feel comfortable that her study was complete and as far as she was concerned she may still have a clot.
We take every complaint seriously especially those that deal with quality of care. We want to do what we do better than anyone else. It’s our job to make people better. It’s our job to provide the service the patient needs to get better. It’s our job to do what we do right. It’s our job to save lives.
Like any complaint we listened to the patient, investigated the concerns, and followed up with the patient. It’s the follow-up with the patient in this case that I want to share.
Dr. Clouse took it upon himself to contact the patient and invite her to come to his office so that he could review the study with her. The patient agreed to come in and when she arrived Dr. Clouse reviewed the study with her in great detail. He showed her images of the veins and arteries in her leg, he showed her how he could see that blood was flowing normally, and he showed her how he could see that her study was done appropriately and the technologist did exactly what he was supposed to do.
Dr. Clouse also explained to the patient that the best way get images of the calf is by placing the ultrasound probe on the side of the calf because there is less tissue in the area which is one reason the technologist did not scan the painful area of the leg the other reason the technologist did not move the probe over the painful area is because, if a clot were present, doing so might cause the clot to move and potentially harm the patient.
The patient thanked Dr. Clouse and told him how much she appreciated his explanation and the sense of relief she felt knowing that her study was complete and she doesn’t have a clot. The patient also took time to call Administration and share how much she appreciated the explanation she received and she then apologized for ever complaining in the first place and admitted that she was anxious, and rightly so, that she might have a blood clot. She also shared that she will tell all of her friends what great care she received at GVMH and she will use GVMH for all of her future health care needs.
Are there lessons to be learned from this situation, you bet. We can always improve, in the future we can explain to the patient why we scan the side of the calf muscle instead of the back when looking for a clot but there are times when someone is sick or in pain they don’t always hear what we say. We can respond to patient concerns, just as Dr. Clouse did, in a timely manner. We can create loyalty through service recovery, just as Dr. Clouse did.
Thanks Dr. Clouse, I appreciate all you did to be responsive to this patient and you set a great example of service recovery for all of us.
We can, and should, learn from complaints. If this patient didn’t complain would she be telling all of her friends what a great place GVMH is? Not a chance.