Informal Study Reveals 28 Common Physician Grievances With Hospitals

What's bothering your physicians? The following 28 grievances were collected from physicians at three different hospitals over a period of six months, according to Rochell Pierce, vice president of physician relationship management for Brentwood, Tenn.-based Aegis Health Group.  The complaints range from large-scale (lack of confidence in hospital administration) to those that could be easily solved (cleanliness of on-call room), but all deteriorate the hospital-physician relationship. Here are the grievances followed by a Q&A with Ms. Pierce. Editor's note: Content is numbered, not ranked.

1. Poor customer service.
2. Rude staff.
3. Long wait times in emergency departments and for imaging services.
4. Unorganized reports or charts (lack of detail, late, mix-ups, etc.).
5. Bad contact information for departments or people within the hospital.
6. Challenges to joining the hospital's medical group.
7. Challenges to joining the hospital's medical staff.
8. Bad parking.
9. Poor directions for patients.
10. Need for better ordering process for imaging services.
11. Difficulty assessing patient information online (password problems, online technology doesn't work, etc.).
12. Unanswered requests for electronic medical records.
13. Radiologists who do not return calls.
14. Lack of specialists within hospital.
15. Poor campus security.
16. Need for online education.
17. Poor patient registration process (both inpatient and at surgery centers).
18. Pricing for labs and imaging services.
19. Lack of confidence in hospital administration.
20. Availability of services and equipment.
21. Cleanliness of resident on-call room.
22. Not enough computers available to access online records.
23. Not enough support from hospital to develop and grow practices.
24. Desire and need for a forum to share ideas and updates with colleagues.
25. Poor nursing quality or unprofessional nursing staff.
26. Need for more same-day imaging.
27. Inconsistent messages from the hospital or poor communication.
28. Favoritism, or the hospital supporting some physicians at the cost of others.

Q: This list is rather extensive. Are there a handful of complaints from physicians you encounter most often?

Rochell Pierce: We deal with many community-based physicians, and one of the primary ways they engage with the hospital is through imaging and ancillary services. Many of their complaints are often related to connectivity — the ease of referrals and wait times for patients. We've seen many more hospitals begin using online scheduling and ordering to help with efficiency problems.

Q: Are there any grievances that have recently become more popular?

RP: We've been hearing more complaints about the hospital not doing enough work with physicians, whether it be marketing, helping them grow their practice or looking for better ways for them to earn income. I think this may be a function of the economy and uncertainty in healthcare, but more complaints are related to what hospitals are doing for physicians in terms of being successful and productive.

We're also seeing more complaints about physicians wanting more of a voice in terms of developing networks or boards within the hospital. Physicians want to collaborate and share medical information and concerns.

Q: One of these complaints caught my eye — rude staff. Can you explain this one a bit further?

RP: Usually these are complaints from patients that get back to the physicians. Maybe a patient went in for a mammogram and the tech was rude to her. If you don't have a physician outreach program, or a group in the hospital who listens to physicians, the hospital won't hear these complaints. If hospital staff is rude to patients, that puts the physician in a bad position. Hospitals can lose connectivity with physicians if they don't immediately fix these problems.  

Q: How would you advise hospitals to begin addressing large-scale grievances, such as lack of confidence in hospital administration?

RP: Number one: listen. If you don’t know about a problem, you can't address it. A physician recently told us he/she felt as though he/she couldn't trust anything coming from the hospital CEO. We immediately relayed that information to the hospital to begin addressing this physician's concerns. Another group of physicians said they had difficulty referring patients to a hospital's specialty center, and we realized the center didn't have enough phone lines. Once we had enough evidence about this problem, we sat down with that group and changed their phone system.

Hospitals should also ask hard questions and be prepared to respond to them. The problem may not be immediately repaired, but you should respond to physician concerns. Identify the problems, implement solutions and track results. Also, be transparent about these goals, how you'll achieve them and what role the physician plays in the process. Sometimes, as long as the physician feels like the hospital is making a good-faith effort to solve the problem, they are much more satisfied.

On the flip side, physicians need to be involved in this, too. We recently did a large physician-satisfaction survey, and we were really surprised with the number of responses that were neutral to "yes" or "no" questions. If physicians want a voice, they need to participate as well, and not let other physicians handle the situation for them.

Learn more about Aegis Group.

Read more about hospital-physician relationships:

- First Step to Hospital-Physician Integration: Physician-Physician Integration

- 7 Tips for Physician Representation in Hospital Governance

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