Why Are Our Patients Claiming? Statistics from a Dermatology Clinic

Joana Cabete, André Lencastre, Margarida Apetato, Maria João Paiva Lopes


Introduction: Patient satisfaction is a commonly used indicator for measuring quality in health care. In this context, patients are recognized as important and active agents in improving health services. In Portugal, progress has been made in characterizing concerns and needs of the national health system users, through the analysis of complaints and litigations.

Objective: To analyse complaints related to care in an outpatient dermatology department in a Portuguese hospital.

Material and Methods: All complaints referring to the dermatology department and registered from 2000 to 2010 were analysed.

Results: During the eleven-year study period, 106 complaints were recorded, amounting to a rate of 0.4‰, and an increasing propensity to claim. Plaintiffs were mostly women (60.4%). The ‘Administrative or Organizational’ complaints were more prevalent than those pertaining to ‘Healthcare Professionals’ (58.5% vs. 41.5%). The former were mainly allusive to the ‘Laws and Rules’ of the institution, followed by claims related to ‘Administrative Procedures’. All of the dissatisfaction records on the ‘Healthcare Professionals’ group were directed to doctors and medical acts. ‘Frustrated Expectation’ was the most frequent category in claims towards doctors, followed by ‘Behavioural’ related ones.

Conclusions: The rate of dermatology complaints in the studied department remains low comparatively to the national hospital average. The increase in the number of patients making claims can be attributed to higher demands and enhanced knowledge (or its absence) of their rights. These results emphasize the importance of the recent organizational improvements and highlight the doctor-patient relationship. Health education might render a better management of health expectations and resources.

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