3 tips for dealing with angry patients

Consumer anger and frustration with the healthcare system is on the rise, and as the primary point of contact for patients using that system, doctors need to be aware and prepared, according to a story in Medical Economics.

While healthcare consumers generally express satisfaction with their primary care physician, they're a lot less bullish about the healthcare system overall, especially when it comes to rising costs.

In a poll of 145 physicians conducted by Medical Economics, 87 percent of doctors reported an increase in angry patients. Reported causes of that rage focused on patients' financial concerns, particularly regarding high copays or deductibles. Patients also reportedly became frustrated with barriers to receiving a desired prescription, either because their insurance refused to cover it or because doctors refused to fill it, according to the article.

Whether physicians are the proximate cause of a patient's angry outburst or not, Medical Economics offers some tips for how to deal with aggressive patient behavior:

- Empathy and a measured tone can go a long way toward calming a patient, says Bernard Golden, Ph.D., author of Overcoming Destructive Anger. He suggests that listening to a patient and acknowledging their anger can help defuse the situation.

-  Honesty and transparency are recommended by psychiatrist David Reiss, M.D., especially in situations where the practice itself is in error. "If, as a doctor, you screwed up and sent something a day late, take responsibility," he says.

- Have a security plan in place, because anger can always boil over into threatening or violent behavior, Golden says. Also, train staff so they know how to handle such situations.

To learn more:
- read the story