Patients' and relatives' complaints about encounters and communication in health care: evidence for quality improvement

Patient Educ Couns. 2009 May;75(2):199-204. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2008.10.007. Epub 2008 Nov 26.


Objective: The aim of this study was to describe patients' and relatives' complaints to the local Patients' Advisory Committee about their encounters and communication in health care.

Methods: Complaints (n=105) regarding patients' and relatives' dissatisfaction with communication and encounters in health care, registered at a local Patients' Advisory Committee between 2002 and 2004, were included. The texts were analysed using content analysis.

Results: Three categories were identified: "Not receiving information or being given the option to participate", "Not being met in a professional manner" and "Not receiving nursing or practical support". Insufficient information, insufficient respect and insufficient empathy were described as the most common reasons for a negative professional encounter.

Conclusion: Patients and relatives experienced unnecessary anxiety and reduced confidence in health care after negative professional encounters.

Practice implications: The complaints reported to the Patients' Advisory Committee could be used more effectively in health care and be regarded as important evidence when working with quality improvement. To systematically use patient stories, such as those obtained in this report, as a reflective tool in education and supervision could be one way to improve communication and bring new understanding about the patient's perspective in health care.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Personnel, Hospital
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Sweden