How Do I Handle a Difficult Patient?
Every DC comes across a challenging patient from time to time. These tips can help you navigate the next one that crosses your path.
Posted in Risk Management on Thursday, January 31, 2019
I have a patient who seems to have a bit of an attitude problem whenever he comes in. How should I handle his constant anger?
No one wants to deal with an angry or difficult patient – especially one who is perpetually so. And when someone constantly complains about office hours, prices, your pandemic policies, insurance issues, wait times and so on, it can be hard to tell which worries and concerns are legitimate and which ones are just part of the never-ending flow of negativity.
There could be any number of reasons this person seems to be perpetually unhappy, so keep in mind the old adage, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Is this person complaining about insurance, the prices of your services, the frequency of visits? Perhaps they’re having financial difficulties. A payment plan could be helpful, if you’re able to make that work. Does he complain about office hours? Maybe he has transportation issues or a demanding job that make it tough to keep appointments. It could be that he’s having relationship or family issues, is stressed at home or work or is experiencing any number of other hardships.
There’s also the possibility that your patient is truly unhappy with the treatment or care he’s received which deserves some attention. If the patient’s hostility doesn’t dissipate or he seems to want to take things further, you may need to take formal steps to terminate the doctor/patient relationship. If you sense a potential danger to you or your staff, remove yourself and staff members from harm’s way and ask for assistance from law enforcement.
A Few Ways to Help Calm a Hot-Headed Patient
- Follow up with care and concern. Even if you feel you did nothing wrong, this is important. Ask how they are doing, how they are feeling, how they are physically.
- Educate. After a two-week cooling-off period, consider offering to go over the patient’s charts together to talk through the treatment you provided. This may be all the patient needs to feel comfortable with the situation.
- Empathize. Empathize with the patient, but don’t get drawn into the conflict. Instead, use reflective statements such as, “I understand you are upset about …”