Service Recovery in Healthcare. How to prevent medical complaint escalation?

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Service recovery is receiving more and more attention in the healthcare sector as the importance of quality care increases. To provide this high-quality care, healthcare organizations must focus on patient dissatisfaction and prioritize effective complaint-handling procedures. However, due to various factors, patient dissatisfaction can sometimes escalate into legal proceedings. Such escalation has a significant and often negative impact on different parties involved, including healthcare organizations, healthcare professionals, and patients and their families. Therefore, this study aims to explore the factors that contribute to the escalation of complaints into claims and to develop prevention strategies. To achieve these goals, the following research question was created: “What are the contributing factors that result in medical complaints escalating into claims, and how can this escalation be prevented?”. Three researchers worked together to develop a conceptual framework and expectations for studying the factors influencing medical complaint escalation. These factors were divided into categories such as characteristics of the healthcare professional, event, patient, family, complaint handling, and organizational factors. Based on these categories, qualitative practice-oriented research has been conducted, involving semi-structured interviews with 26 complaint-handling experts working in Dutch hospitals. The insights gathered from these interviews have led to the confirmation, rejection, or partial confirmation of expectations. Additionally, new and interesting effects have been discovered. An interesting effect is that when healthcare organizations prioritize a one-size-fits-all approach rather than patient-centered care, this increases the risk of complaint escalation. Another notable effect is that patients often escalate complaints when they feel unheard or unseen. Furthermore, this study is one of the first to demonstrate the significant indirect effect of cultural diversity on complaint escalation. The study’s results enabled the development of theoretical and managerial implications, as well as limitations and suggestions for further research. Moreover, an escalation prevention tool has been developed to help healthcare organizations, healthcare professionals, and complaint-handling experts effectively prevent complaint escalation.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen