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Paperwork Irks Patients Most

Study examines nature of health-care complaints

SUNDAY, Feb. 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Paperwork and billing concerns cause more patient complaints than the quality of their health care, despite the fact that problems with health-care quality are as common as administrative problems.

Surprising as that may sound, it's the conclusion of a recent study in Milbank Quarterly.

The study found many people don't complain even when they have serious problems with the quality of their health care. Such complaints haven't increased, even though recent government regulations make it easier to file grievances about health-care quality.

The study says people who did complain about health-care quality were five times as likely to have their concerns resolved in a successful manner. People were most likely to complain about simple problems, rather than complex problems, and about repeated and costly problems.

People were more likely to complain and have their problem resolved when a third party, such as a family member, doctor or outside mediator, was involved.

The study used data from the 1999 Kaiser Family Foundation's National Survey on Consumer Experiences with Health Plans.

About half of the survey respondents reported at least one problem linked to their health-care plan in the previous year. Of those who said they had a problem, 59 percent complained directly to their health plan and 13 percent made their complaint to their employer.

Blacks and Asian Americans were half as likely to complain about problems as whites, but their complaints were just as effective as complaints made by whites.

More information

Here's where to learn more about patient rights.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, January 2003
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