Sorry shouldn’t be the hardest word

Latest posts by Marie Dancer (see all)

“Sorry.” Be prepared if you have to say it!

Owning a small business can be tricky enough, but for healthcare professionals it brings the added danger of potentially damaging lawsuits should something go wrong in practice. While you can’t guarantee that mistakes won’t happen, you can reduce the risk of it happening in the first place or limit the damage it causes your business when it does.

Keep detailed patient records
Begin by recording each decision that’s made and the reasons why. This is especially important if a patient has taken some persuading about a particular course of treatment. It might seem laborious at the time, but these notes can be used as evidence if any questions or issues arise in future to show what happened when and why. If notes are sufficiently detailed, they can also help with memory recall about the patient or client in question.

Say sorry
Mistakes happen and when they do, a genuine apology goes a long way to appeasing a disgruntled patient or customer. Try to demonstrate genuine reflection and an understanding of the lessons learned, as well as providing a detailed explanation of what went wrong in the first place. If necessary, offer reassurances that the mistake won’t happen again, perhaps demonstrating a change in procedures or policies as a result.

Encourage honesty
Try to foster an open culture within your team so your staff feel able to admit to any mistakes if something goes wrong. As the business owner you’ll want to be made aware of any issues as soon as possible so you can manage the situation effectively and your team can learn from it. Be careful not to create an environment where staff feel tempted to cover up their mistakes or are afraid to tell you their problems.

Look after your staff
Complaints are just as likely to be prompted by the way patients or customers have been treated or spoken to as by the clinical care they receive. Counter this by making sure regular training sessions take place, including refresher sessions on soft skills like customer communication and patient care issues alongside clinical competences.

Set processes
Don’t assume that the people in your business will instinctively work the way you want them to. Without detailed policies and procedures in place, whether they do or not might as well be pot luck. Helping them with the right guidance will help you out long term by giving you a team that carries out its responsibilities correctly, minimising potential issues.

Don’t hang about
Dealing promptly and efficiently with any complaints is a good way of nipping issues in the bud early on. Be careful not to be dismissive about a complaint, but rather try to see the situation from the complainant’s perspective. If they are complaining to you then, chances are, they feel really strongly about what has happened. Acknowledge that fact and take it as an opportunity to improve.

Check your cover
When was the last time you checked your insurance policies to see if they gave you sufficient cover? Make this a priority, notifying your insurer promptly of any issues that might be coming up on the horizon. They’ll often want to be involved with any serious issues from the outset and may be able to assist you in deterring the patient or customer from full blown legal action.

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