Patient Complaints in Finland 2000-2004: A Retrospective Register Study
Journal of Medical Ethics 2008 November; 34(11): 788-792
Today, monitoring of patient complaints in healthcare services is being used as a tool for quality assurance systems and in the future development of services. This nationwide register study describes the number of all complaints processed, number of complaints between different state provinces, healthcare services and healthcare professionals, and outcomes of complaints in Finland during the period 2000-2004. All complaints processed at the State Provincial Offices and the National Authority for Medicolegal Affairs were analysed by statistical methods. Complaints about mental healthcare were explored in greater detail. The analysis showed that the number of patient complaints increased considerably during the study period. There were changes in the number of complaints between study years in different provinces. Out of different healthcare services, an especially marked increase was seen in private healthcare. Nearly all complaints were lodged against physicians, and over half of the complaints were made because of medical error. In mental health care, patients more often complained about unsatisfactory certificates and statements and the use of compulsory hospital care. An analysis of the outcomes revealed that in mental health care complaints more seldom led to consequences. The results need to be utilised when planning interventions for advanced supervision, prevention of adverse events and patient safety in healthcare, and especially in mental health care. From the patients' perspective, it is important to create a culture where most problem situations are handled where the treatment was provided, thus avoiding a complex complaints process.
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