How to File a Complaint Against a Hospital
If you have been the victim of medical negligence or a harmful error during your stay at a hospital, you may be unsure about how and where to file a complaint. Hospital staff may have botched your procedure, given you a misdiagnosis, or measured the dosage of your medication incorrectly. Even if your grievance is less serious, such encountering a rude nursing staff, this guide lists your options on where and how to file a complaint against a hospital. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.
Five Ways to File a Complaint Against a Hospital
- File a complaint with the hospital Before you consider other options, you should pay a visit to the hospital's patient relations department or patient advocate, which are dedicated to handling patient grievances. This can be the fastest way to resolve your complaint. You may wish to seek legal advice at this early stage if you have questions about how to best word your complaint and the types of documentation to include.
- Contact your state's public health department . Patient safety issues can be reported to the public health department, which are empowered by law to investigate and penalize non-complaint hospitals. Depending on the gravity of the violation, a hospital could face fines or in extreme cases be forced to shut down.
- Notify a Quality Improvement Organization. Medicare or Medicaid patients can submit complaints to the Q.I.O. assigned to their state, either Livanta or Kepro. Q.I.O.s are contracted by the federal government and staffed by health care professionals and quality improvement experts to ensure beneficiaries receive quality medical care. A complaint can lead to an investigation and ultimately a report outlining the findings and action taken by the Q.I.O.
- Complain to the Joint Commission. If the hospital where you had the negative experience is accredited by the Joint Commission, like most are, you can lodge a complaint with the watchdog organization. Depending on the severity of your complaint or if there have been other similar complaints, the Joint Commission may choose to inspect the facility and possibly pull their accreditation.
- File a lawsuit. If your grievance is serious enough—such as a surgical error or a misdiagnosis—taking legal action may be the best course of action. Before consulting with an attorney, write down your story as best you recall it and gather all supporting documents at your disposal. Suing a hospital can be a lengthy process, so be prepared for it to possibly take years before a resolution is reached. However, a successful lawsuit may lead to the recovery of any damages you suffered due to the hospital's error or negligence.
How Can I File A Complain With My State’s Public Health Department?
Many public health departments allow you to submit a form online through their website in which you can outline your complaint. Other public health departments offer a hotline that you can call. You can find the website of your state' public health department here.
When is a Hospital Liable?
If a nurse, technician, or other support staff that is employed by the hospital harms a patient in the course of doing their job, the hospital can be held responsible. However, if it was a doctor that was negligent or made an error, the hospital may be off the hook. Doctors are typically independent contractors and not hospital employees, and are individually liable for their actions, meaning you will have ti sue them instead of the hospital.
What Rights Do Patients Have?
Patients have numerous rights guaranteed under federal law, and depending on where they live, could have additional rights under state law. Basic rights include informed consent about your medical treatment, the right to emergency care regardless of ability to pay, access to a copy of your medical records, and the right to keep them private.
Top Ten Patient Grievances at the The Johns Hopkins Hospital
|2||Noisy nurses' stations|
|3||Personal belongings being lost|
|4||Staff not knocking before entering the room|
|5||Not keeping whiteboards updated|
|6||Lack of clear communication|
|7||Feeling unengaged in their care or like they are not being listened to|
|8||Lack of orientation to the room and hospital|
|10||Lack of professionalism from hospital staff|
If you were discharged from a hospital in worse shape than when you went in, or feel that you received poor treatment, you may be wondering where you can file a complaint. We typically think of hospitals as a safe place where we go when we are hurt or sick, but sometimes things can go awry. Not all hospitals are created equal, and if you've had a negative experience at one, it may be hard to figure out who is responsible for looking into it. Here we'll give you five places where you can turn to.
Even the hospital where many of Hollywood's rich and famous go to receive medical care has had complaints against it. The family of Bill Paxton sued Cedars-Sinai for negligence in 2018, blaming them for the actor's death following an unconventional procedure they called a quote unquote maverick surgery.
While we always hope hospital employees carry out their duties in good faith, errors also happen. And when they do, they can have severe and even deadly consequences.
While we always hope hospital employees carry out their duties in good faith, errors also happen.
Take for instance the man who died after surgeons at a Nashville hospital left a needle inside him. When the mistake was discovered, a second surgery was done to remove the needle, but doctors said they couldn't find it and the man died a month later.
Less severe and more common patient complaints include a lack of clear communication, personal belongings going missing, and not feeling included in medical decisions.
If this sounds like one of your experiences, time is of the essence. Check out our guide on how to file a complaint against a hospital by scrolling beneath this video.
If this sounds like one of your experiences, time is of the essence.
Here are your options for filing a complaint. Option #1: Before going over the head of the hospital, try submitting a complaint directly to them. Hospitals usually have a patient relations department or a patient advocate that deals with grievances. This avenue may lead to an internal investigation at the facility and could provide the fastest recourse to quality of care or billing issues.
Typically, these complaints can be filed over the phone, through the mail, or in person. When filing, try to be as specific as possible and include any kind of documentation you might have to support your case.
Of course, a hospital investigating itself may pose a conflict of interest and may not yield the best result. In 2016, a Kaiser facility in California was fined millions of dollars for mishandling patient complains. One doctor said the complaints just got lost in the bureaucracy and never saw the light of day again.
One doctor said the complaints just got lost in the bureaucracy and never saw the light of day again.
Option #2: If the hospital is not responsive or your complaint is serious enough to warrant an outside investigation, you can begin with notifying your state's public health department. Any member of the public - even if you weren't a patient at the hospital - can file a complaint with a public health department. Some departments allow you to lodge a complaint anonymously, however if you do, you won't be able to learn the outcome of any potential investigation.
Option #3: If you are a Medicare patient, and the quality of care at a hospital you were admitted to was not up to par, you can also file a complaint with the Quality Improvement Organization assigned to your state. This is a group of health quality experts, clinicians, and consumers charged with investigating violations of patient's rights.
If you received the wrong meds, developed a hospital-acquired infection that was not treated, received incomplete or no discharge instructions, or experienced any healthcare oversight, you need to get in touch with your designated Q.I.O. as soon as possible. To find out how, be sure to read our guide on how to file a complaint against a hospital. Scroll beneath this video to find it.
If you received the wrong meds, developed a hospital-acquired infection that was not treated, received incomplete or no discharge instructions, or experienced any healthcare oversight, you need to get in touch with your designated Q.I.O. as soon as possible.
Option #4: You can submit a complaint to the Joint Commission if you feel a hospital has a patient safety issue. The federally approved, independent, nonprofit organization accredits healthcare facilities across the nation and their Office of Quality and Patient Safety reviews complaints from the public. Complaints can be submitted through their website, by mail, or by fax. Note that the Joint Commission does not handle billing issues.
If a complaint is serious enough or if there have been other similar complaints, the Joint Commission will conduct an inspection of the facility. If a facility doesn't shape up, it's accreditation can eventually be revoked.
Unfortunately, even this supposedly independent organization is far from perfect and has been found to at times ignore serious safety compliance issues. Still, submitting your complaint to as many places as possible will increase the chances that you'll find recourse. If not, there is one more place you can try.
Still, submitting your complaint to as many places as possible will increase the chances that you'll find recourse.
Option #5: A lawsuit. We aren't lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but if you think a hospital has committed serious negligence, especially if it has caused bodily injury, your best bet might be to take the issue to court. Some of the most common types of medical malpractice lawsuits involve misdiagnosis, child birth injuries, and surgery errors.
An attorney will be able to tell you whether you have a case. Just don't delay because each state has statutes of limitation for malpractice claims. Before seeing a lawyer, make sure you've written down your story and have as much documentation as you can to support it. Most successful medical malpractice suits end up being settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In one Michigan case, a jury awarded $130 million to the mother of a child who suffered major brain damage as a result of a hospital's negligence.
A more well known case from 2007 involved actor Dennis Quaid's newborn twins. Soon after they were delivered at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, they developed a staph infection. They were given the standard treatment, a blood thinner, except the dosage was 1,000 times stronger than the pediatric dose.
A more well known case from 2007 involved actor Dennis Quaid's newborn twins.
The twins remained in intensive care for 11 days, and eventually recovered. However, the Quaids sued the hospital and later settled for $750,000.
Remember that filing a complaint or lawsuit may not only help bring you justice, but can also prevent serious or deadly errors or unethical behavior from affecting other patients in the future. Don't wait until it's too late. Check out our guide on how to file a complaint against a hospital by scrolling beneath this video.
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