Pediatric emergency department complaints: a three-year analysis of sources and trends

Ann Emerg Med. 1991 Sep;20(9):1014-6. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(05)82982-8.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Accounts Payable and Receivable
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Research
  • Hospitals, Pediatric*
  • Humans
  • Pennsylvania
  • Professional Practice / standards
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / organization & administration
  • Retrospective Studies