I’m Kate Dewhirst.

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What bothers patients? Why do they complain? What we can learn from the Patient Ombudsman’s First Annual Report in Ontario

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The Patient Ombudsman just released her first report: Patient Ombudsman Annual_Report_Final_EN

A year of patient and caregiver conversations and complaints by the numbers:

Almost 2000 complaints

  • 1431 complaints received by phone
  • 553 written complaints

Complaints were made by:

  • 37% patients
  • 29% substitute decision-makers
  • 23% caregivers
  • 6% family members
  • 5% other

Some complaints were rerouted to other regulatory authorities such as:

  • 364 complaints sent to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
  • 108 complaints sent to the Ontario Ombudsman
  • 88 complaints sent to the College of Nurses of Ontario
  • 59 complaints sent to the Health Services Appeal and Review Board
  • 49 complaints sent to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

Types of health care organizations and their top complaints:

  • 70% hospitals – people were worried about inappropriate discharge, lack of communication and policies and procedures
  • 19% home and community care – people were worried about delay in service, inadequate service and policies and procedures
  • 11% long-term care homes – people were worried about poor care, policies and procedures, and lack of communication

Overall the top 5 healthcare issues Ontario’s patients and caregivers seem most concerned about:

  • 11% Inappropriate discharge
  • 10% Miscommunication or lack of communication
  • 10% Understanding and improving policies and procedures
  • 9.5% Access to service
  • 9% Poor care

Resolutions included:

  • Sharing the patient or caregiver perspective with a health service provider
  • Getting the right information to make a decision
  • Connecting to the right person who can help
  • Raising awareness of the issue
  • Getting a policy or a procedure changed for the better
  • Helping to prevent someone else from going through a similar experience
  • Getting an apology or formal acknowledgment of the concern

A few themes:

  • Patients want to be treated with greater compassion and dignity and seen as a whole person
  • Patients feel they have not been given enough information and time to make fully informed decisions
  • Patients and caregivers are fearful of speaking up about care in case of reprisal
  • Patients and caregivers are eager to participate in their own care plans

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