8 Ways To Deal With An Angry Client / Patient


8 Ways To Deal With An Angry Client / Patient


If you’ve ever worked in any type of Customer Service job, you’ve most likely run into an angry customer or patient.  Think of this little article as a fire extinguisher for that red hot human leaning into your space yelling…..

With pressures escalating in today’s overly-busy lifestyle,  many professional practices report that unhappy customers or patient numbers have grown to as high as 30 percent of their business.

“Patients can be difficult for several reasons. Some patients might have mental health disorders, which could lead to issues with behavior,” said Michael Munger, MD president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). “Other patients might be suffering from chronic pain and demand an increase in medication.”

Meanwhile, other patients, as noted by Dr. Munger, are feeling stress over financial factors, such as the loss of a job.  “With any interaction, it is important to know your patient, and know yourself,” echoed John Cullen, MD, president-elect of AAFP.

No matter the reason, experts say the most difficult patients seem to fall into two categories:

1. The angry patient

2. The manipulative patient

These patients can put a strain on the physician/practice — patient relationship. According to Richard Cahill, associate general counsel with The Doctors Company, there should be clear guidelines on how to deal with myriad likely scenarios. Here are some tips on dealing with difficult patients.

The magazine (Physicians Practice) offers 8 tips for managing them: (We’ve been working with professional practices of all sorts for a long time…..our input is in red)

  • Set limits with written policies and contracts, such as for patients receiving chronic pain medications. (Most offices have a list of drug-seeking patients or have relationships with referring offices who share information about these patients.)
  • Collaborate with your team to ensure everyone is communicating the same message. (Morning meetings are a great way to gather staff and make sure everyone knows whats happening with scheduled patients.)
  • Determine whether the patient is manipulative or angry; each has different motivations. (Can be tough to tell – I’ve found listening and being empowered to offer solution works for almost every kind of mad!)
  • Actively listen and empathize with an angry patient. (Be careful not to talk down or overdo the sympathy – you may inflame the situation further.)
  • Ensure that staff work as a team with a consistent message for patients trying to divide and conquer to get their way.  (Again, the regular morning meeting seems to aid with this type of patient.  Doctors need to be sure to support their staff should a patient become hostile!)
  • Keep all communication with patients nonconfrontational.  (sooooooo hard.  Do your best and feel free to call another staff member in if needed.)
  • Maintain your cool. (again, difficult when being screamed at……)
  • Consider terminating the patient from the practice if necessary, using a concise letter.  (Sometimes a patient is simply NOT worth having in your office PERIOD)
xoxo, Rosanna
Join the Conversation