The Art of Good MedicineSeveral years ago, I was asked to speak at the FDA on behalf of LASIK, at a time when there was some talk about possibly pulling the approval due to patient complaints. Frankly, I braced myself for what I thought would be a lot of angry tales by unreasonable people, but what I came away with was different. In fact, it was helpful.
The one clear message I came away with was that these patients were not primarily unhappy with their vision; they were unhappy because they felt abandoned by their doctors. I swore to myself then that I would never let a patient feel abandoned.
No matter how trivial you think your patient’s complaint is, it’s important to the patient, and you need to listen and agree with them, and try to find a solution. You have to stop and take a deep breath and be genuinely supportive of your patients.
Yes, you will sometimes have patients who will test you, but the key is to always let the patient know that you have their best interest at heart and leave no stone unturned until you get their problem resolved.
The art of medicine is to keep your patient close to you, even when the dynamic has changed. Your staff can also help with this too. For example, if you or your staff receive a call about an unhappy patient, get that patient in right away and don’t make them wait. Have your staff perform refraction, OCT and topography the moment they arrive. Make sure they collect everything you will need so you’re prepared with answers.
Then, when the patient arrives in your chair, you don’t have to send them away for more tests. You are there with answers, solutions and apologies. For example, I say something along the lines of the following:
‘Mrs. Jones, you must be very unhappy with the results. As we discussed before surgery, this can happen and I apologize that it happened to you. We’re going to work together to make this better as quickly as possible. I will do everything it takes to fix this.’
After hearing this honest speech, you’ll likely diff use the anger and bond together.