The chances of a complaint being made by a patient throughout the course of a physician’s career are quite high. According to a national survey by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) approximately one in five Americans has dealt with a physician who they believe was acting unethically, unprofessionally, or providing substandard care.

These accusations can come as a shock, and can have far-reaching consequences often harming a physician’s reputation and future career. As a healthcare professional, it is important to know how to effectively respond to a complaint made by a patient. This article has outlined a few steps to take when confronted with a professional misconduct complaint.

Seek Legal Advice

Facing a formal complaint from a patient can be a daunting and stressful experience. Having a skilled professional by your side who can guide you through each step of the process can help you to navigate the situation effectively.

An experienced physician defense lawyer can advise you about the nature of the complaint and the legal process involved at each stage. With their assistance, you can put together the necessary evidence needed to prove your innocence or establish mitigating factors that can lessen the severity of the complaint made against you. Your attorney can also take over all formal communications by preparing written statements and advocating on your behalf. This will ensure all responses are professional, legally sound, and in your best interests.


With a skilled attorney by your side, you can maximize the chances of the complaint being dealt with correctly or even dismissed. If you have been accused of professional misconduct a physician defense lawyer can help you throughout the process. You can visit this site to find out more.

Understand the Complaint

Contact your administration or human resources department to make sure you have all the facts regarding your involvement in the allegations being made against you. Discuss the complaints process with them, and enquire about your responsibilities and any timeline you need to be aware of.

Ask to be given a written copy of the complaint, or an official report. If you are unclear about any aspects of the accusation, ask for further clarification. It is important to remain calm and try not to protest or argue against the claims being made at this stage.

Once you have read and understood the complaint, produce a document setting out your version of events which you can also submit to your lawyer. If you decide to proceed without legal counsel this will be the basis of your response. It should, therefore, be written in an accurate, professional and respectful manner. Make sure you are concise and stick to the facts.

Gather Evidence

Put together evidence that will support your response. Where possible, provide supporting documentation to corroborate any statements of fact. For example, perhaps a patient has accused you of failing to provide adequate follow-up care, yet you can cite accurate dates and times of phone calls you made and messages you left them regarding their recovery. This also highlights the need for accurate and diligent record-keeping when practicing.


Put together a list of names of any witnesses who can support your claims and help you refute the complaint being made against you. Your lawyer may rely on their evidence if necessary. It can also be helpful to document your career history and any record of exemplary conduct and practice. Perhaps you have certain accolades which honor your service in a certain area such as community engagement or volunteering, demonstrating your character and further supporting your response.

Remain Professional

As a healthcare provider, you have a duty to act professionally and with integrity. This also applies to how you respond to a complaint made against you. While you may feel aggrieved and may be tempted to contact the patient or vent your frustrations publicly on social media, it is advisable to remain discreet and professional throughout the process. Allow the complaint procedure to unfold, knowing you will be given the chance to present your case and rebut or clarify any allegations made.

Often a patient complaint can be diffused by communicating effectively with a patient. In many cases, an explanation or an apology will be enough to resolve an issue and prevent it turning into a formal complaint. Below are some steps to help you effectively manage patient complaints when they arise:

1. Be proactive

Rather than waiting for complaints from your patients, take a proactive stance and gauge their feedback by sending out patient satisfaction surveys, either by mail, online or during their appointment. Make sure your patients know their concerns matter and efforts will be made to address them quickly and fairly.

2. Be Attentive


Listen to any complaints or concerns a patient may have. Be attentive and allow them to speak without interruption. Rather than looking distracted or disinterested, gesture purposefully to let your patient know they are being heard.

3. Speak Calmly

After listening to your patient, respond in a calm and non-defensive tone. Restate their concerns to assure them they have been heard and their complaint is being taken seriously by you.

4. Empathize

By putting yourself in your patient’s shoes you are able to see things from their perspective. Perhaps they are in a lot of pain or have been ill for some time. Empathizing with them will help you understand how they feel, enabling you to respond in a more sympathetic and effective manner.

5. Apologize

A genuine apology is often all a dissatisfied patient needs to feel that their complaint is valid and will be addressed.

6. Outline the Resolution

Acknowledge the complaint and your intention to deal with it promptly. Let the patient know how it will be handled and if in what timeframe. If the patient is not satisfied with your response, provide them with information about possible review options.

7. Document the Complaint

  1. Document the complaint and the steps you will take to resolve the matter. Good record-keeping is essential and having a paper trail that you can rely on at a later stage can often be the evidence you need to rebut a formal complaint made by a patient.
  2. By following the suggestions in this article, you can better equip yourself to deal with any complaints and avoid the likelihood of them escalating.