Migraine-Related Medical Care: Tips for Making Complaints
Last updated: March 2014
For most of us, even psyching up to ask questions and respectfully assert ourselves during our Migraine-related medical appointments is intimidating. So if you're unsatisfied with Migraine care you've received, even if you believe you've been seriously harmed, it can be understandably difficult to assertively face the situation at hand. Here are some tips and tricks for determining how to stand up for yourself if you're dealing with medical care concerns.
DON'T HESITATE TO SHARE YOUR CONCERNS ON THE SPOT. If you are in the hospital or otherwise receiving care and something has you concerned, speak up. Open communication can often prevent small issues from taking on a life of their own, even in an intimidating setting like health care.
DETERMINE THE SERIOUSNESS OF YOUR COMPLAINT. This will help you decide where to direct your complaint. Should it be to the head of the facility where you were treated or is it so serious you should also make a formal complaint with the medical board that licenses the person you have a complaint against? Keep in mind: Even if you don't initially file a formal complaint with the licensing agency, you can decide to do so later.
HOW TO FIND OUT TO WHOM YOUR COMPLAINT SHOULD BE SUBMITTED. Once you've decided where to direct your complaint, you need to know where to send your letter and who is the proper recipient. This depends on the particular situation.
Facility or clinic - Google the name of the facility or clinic to find its website. Look for information about complaints. If you don't have any luck, call the facility's main phone number and ask for help determining who handles patient complaints.
Veterans Affairs -
- Every VA Medical Center has a Patient Representative on hand to help VA patients dealing with concerns. You can either inquire about where to find this person on a routine visit or by phoning your nearest facility in between appointments.
- If you are not able to get resolution of your issue at this level, your next step is to request a meeting with Public Affairs, the Chief of Medicine or, even better, the facility's director.
- If you're still dealing with roadblocks, write to Public Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs and your Senators and Congressman in the House of Representatives. Finally, consider contacting the Joint Commission, which contributes to accreditation of VA medical facilities, to share your concerns.
Medicare - Medicare recipients have the right to file a complaint about the quality of care they've received if they are dissatisfied or believe they have been treated unfairly by a facility or health care provider. Learn more by visiting: CMS Ombudsman Center.
Private insurance provider - Visit the website of your insurance plan or phone the plan to get the name and address of the person to whom complaints should be submitted.
State medical licensing boards - If you have a complaint against a physician, do a Google search for "physician licensing [state]". If it's against a nurse, do the same, substituting the word nurse. And so on. For instance, if I need to file a complaint against a physician in my home state of Kansas, I would do a search for: "physician licensing Kansas".
State facility licensing agencies - Most states have agencies that handle licensing of facilities. You can find a complete list here: Empowered Patient Coalition: State Health Departments.
MAKE SPECIFIC REQUESTS. What do you want to see happen as a result of your complaint? Be sure to state this specifically, clearly and politely. If you simply want an apology, say so. If your demands are more complicated, don't hesitate to express them.
COMPOSE A LETTER OUTLINING YOUR COMPLAINT(S). In drafting this kind of letter, it's important to focus on striking the proper balance between sharing all relevant facts, but not writing such an unnecessarily long letter that the person who receives it gives you the brush off.
Some tips for writing your complaint letter:
1. Include all relevant identifying information, including your name, date of birth, address, phone number, date care was provided and location where care was provided.
2. Start by outlining the objective information that supports your complaint. This might include medical records, lab results, MRIs, etc.
3. Next, share the subjective information that supports your complaint. This might include things like unnecessary pain or discomfort arising from the mishandling of your situation, which, while very real to you, unfortunately cannot usually be supported by any official documentation.
4. Share the names of the medical professionals you believe to be responsible for the situation and any witnesses to the events.
5. Clearly state your desired outcome.
6. Maintain calmness and complete appropriateness in drafting your letter no matter how emotional the situation makes you. Those feelings are completely understandable. But you don't want to do anything to cause the recipient(s) of your complaint to immediately dismiss your concerns. It's a good idea to ask someone who can be objective to review your letter for advice about whether you've maintained the appropriate level of composure and focus.
7. Make a copy of the letter for your own records.
8. Send your letter via the postal service, rather than by email or fax. Ideally, use return receipt service so you know when the letter was received and can prove it was signed for if that should become an issue down the road.
SEEK LEGAL ADVICE. You may want to seriously consider scheduling a consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who is licensed in your state.
Before you dismiss this offhand, PLEASE hear me out. I'm by no means suggesting you dive headlong into litigation. Rather, as an attorney I know statutes of limitations (laws that limit the period during which certain types of legal cases can be initiated) can pose major issues down the road for people who have even incredibly serious and legitimate claims against care providers and/or facilities.
Getting a legal consultation as soon as possible is the best hope for protecting your legal rights. To find an attorney who practices in medical malpractice in your state, contact your state's bar association for a recommendation. When you call to make an appointment, ask up front how much the consultation will cost.
MEDICAL BILLING CONCERNS. Finally, if your concerns relate exclusively to bills that arrive after you've received medical care, please refer to this article for my advice about handling and negotiating medical bills: 10 Tips for Negotiating and Navigating Medical Bills.
How many medications do you take to manage your chronic migraines?