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Doctors’ risks of formal patient complaints and the challenge of predicting complaint behaviour
  1. Søren Birkeland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Søren Birkeland, Department of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark, DK-5230, Odense, Denmark; sbirkeland{at}

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Spittal et al recently presented the readers of this journal with a simple and reliable scoring system for predicting doctors’ risk of becoming the subject of patient complaints.1 Development of such measures can probably promote constructive use of complaint information, decrease patient dissatisfaction, prevent substandard care and target quality improvement interventions.

Using patient complaints constructively, however, necessitates consideration of the manifold facets of patient complaints and behaviours related to making complaints. Patients may have rather different motivations and thresholds for complaining about healthcare delivery and it remains unclear to what degree complaint patterns and over-represented doctor categories provide a balanced reflection of substandard healthcare and quality problems. Furthermore, empirical data are limited about whether complaint risk is actually …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.