Writing a Complaint Letter
If you canít resolve a problem with your health care provider in a face to face conversation, then you can write a letter and send it directly to him or her, and/or to the hospital where you were treated. If that fails, you can also file a formal complaint with a regulation agency, such as the Board of Health.
What to Include in Your Complaint Letters
- Your name, address, phone number.
- The date(s) of your treatment and the name(s) of the health care providers who took care of you.
- A short description of your complaint.
- A description of what you would like to see happen next.
- Attachments/Supporting Documents: along with your letter, send copies of any paperwork that helps explain why you are dissatisfied with the care you received. Do NOT send the original paperwork.
- Sending Copies (ccíing): consider sending copies of your letter to others who may be helpful in resolving your problem. For example, if you are writing to a nurse, you can also send a copy of your letter to the hospitalís director of nursing.
- Always keep a copy of your complaint.
What to Expect if You Write a Complaint Letter
When we invest energy in writing letters or filling out complaint forms, we expect a response, and we expect results! But unfortunately, hospitals and quality organizations (such as the Department of Public Health) are often slow to respond. Also, organizations differ in their communication methods (could be phone, mail, e-mail), and the length of the process (weeks to many months).
- You should ask the hospital representative what the facilityís procedures are for reviewing issues such as yours. Who will look at your complaint? What actions might be taken? How long the review will take? What type of information will be shared with you?
- You can use this information to set a series of goals with the hospital so that you and they agree about what information you will receive, and when.
- If you donít get the results you want, you can keep going and file a complaint with a regulatory agency.
Investigations and Peer Review
- Medical quality concerns are often investigated by physicians through a process called Peer Review, in which a panel of doctors discusses a complaint and decides how/whether the situation could have been prevented. Often, only the most general results of such investigations are shared with the patient because of the strict confidentiality of the system. Even where peer review is not used, it can be difficult to get clear and detailed information about the findings of an inquiry. Because of this, it is often better to resolve concerns through face to face conversations. These can result in better and more immediate understanding between the patient and the provider and/or hospital.
- At the time you file your complaint, make sure that you ask specifically what you can expect at each stage of the process and how much information (if any) you will be given at the end of an investigation.
- If it is found that your situation could have been prevented, it is likely that systems will be reviewed and changed to prevent the problem from happening to someone else. You will not necessarily hear about these changes, although some hospitals are working to build more honest and open relationships with the public.