Study objective: To identify the incidence and major causes of patient and parental complaints in a pediatric emergency department.
Design: Retrospective analysis of complaints received regarding patients seen between January 1987 and December 1989.
Setting: ED of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Participants: All complaints received during the three-year period.
Interventions: Complaints were reviewed for reason, validity, and location at which patient was seen.
Measurements and results: One hundred seventy-six complaints from a total of 154,648 ED visits yielded a frequency of 1.1 complaints per 1,000 patient visits. Main reasons for dissatisfaction were misdiagnosis, billing, and inadequate treatment; 49% of complaints were judged valid. There were 0.69 complaints per 1,000 patient visits in the nonurgent medical portion of the ED. Patients seen emergently (critical care and trauma) had a significantly lower complaint frequency of 0.08 per 1,000 patient visits (P less than .001 by chi 2 analysis).
Conclusion: Assessment of ED complaints is useful to highlight areas of patient dissatisfaction and develop plans for improving patient care.