Patients can help promote safety and reduce risk in several ways. One is to make known their concerns about their health care experiences because complaints might suggest unsafe systems and providers. Responsive health care organizations can benefit since patient complaints that are recorded, systematically analyzed, aggregated, and profiled by ombudsmen can accurately identify physicians at increased risk of a lawsuit. In this paper, we describe how patient complaint profiles have supported nonpunitive “awareness ” feedback and, if needed, “authority” interventions designed to improve safety and reduce lawsuit risk. Experience since 1998 with several hundred such interventions at more than 20 community and academic medical centers shows fewer subsequent complaints associated with most of those receiving feedback. Strengths and limitations of the approach are discussed. We conclude that patient concerns can be an important force for promoting safety
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