Complaints and claim handling in aesthetics - Hamilton Fraser


Complaints can happen in any business and aesthetics is no exception; if a patient is dissatisfied with the outcome of their treatment, they have a right to be listened to and treated with respect. But it's important that you understand the types of complaint you might get, how to handle a complaint effectively and the steps you can take to prevent a claim being made against you.

Here, we'll explore some of the key considerations you need to be aware of when it comes to complaints and claims handling.

Identifying the type of complaint

There are two main types of complaint that you may receive from a patient: a ‘dissatisfaction’ or a ‘formal claim’. Identifying the type of complaint accurately is crucial as this will determine whether it triggers your policy. The table below can help you establish the type of complaint you're facing:

Whatever the nature of the complaint, your insurer should be happy to discuss potential scenarios with you and advise on the best course of action. At Hamilton Fraser we would always work with you to resolve notable matters to prevent them escalating into a formal complaint and potentially a claim. Conversations with us would be noted on your policy, but no claim would be logged against you.

We can also provide you with a range of in-house templates to assist you in liaising with the patient, depending on how you prefer to resolve the issue.

How should I handle a complaint?

Complaint handling can seem daunting, but how you handle complaints can make or break your reputation so it is important to make sure you follow a transparent and well-structured process.

Five key steps to effective handling of notable complaints arising from dissatisfaction

1. Make sure that you acknowledge receipt of your patient’s concerns within 24 hours

While this is not a legal time frame it is important to prioritise complaint handling. A patient who feels heard and taken seriously is much less likely to escalate their complaint further, or to another third party.

2. Provide an estimated timescale for resolution

There is no formal timescale within which you need to have resolved a complaint, but the sooner the better. Swift resolution of complaints avoids them hanging over your business and also provides reassurance to your patient that all complaints are followed up in a timely way. It is of course important to be realistic and factor in time to review patient notes and liaise with your insurance company if necessary. If the time frame you provided is coming to an end and you are unable to meet your deadline then it is best to communicate this to the patient as soon as possible, providing them with a revised date when you plan to have resolved the complaint.

3. Investigate the complaint

It is extremely important to carry out a thorough and honest investigation into both the treatment and the complaint. You do not need to disclose the full outcome of this investigation to the patient but you should use it to reflect on the complaint once it is resolved so that you can learn from any issues that arose and avoid the same scenario from happening again.

4. Provide a summary of your findings

This should be an objective and professional summary of your patient’s treatment journey, concluding with your findings as to whether you believe the complaint is valid. You must not admit liability, but you can apologise and be sympathetic towards your patient’s concerns. Our goal at Hamilton Fraser is to make sure that you are provided with help at every stage of the claims process until a conclusion is reached.

It's also important not to be defensive in your response. Of course, receiving a complaint can sometimes feel like a personal attack against you and your professionalism, but it's best to remain calm and objective throughout your communications with the patient.

5. Conclusion and next steps

The aim following your investigation is to reach a satisfactory outcome for both you and your patient. You should conclude the complaint with a formal response to them outlining next steps. This will usually fall into one of three categories:

  • Thank the patient for bringing their concerns to your attention but explain that, following a thorough investigation you cannot uphold the complaint and no further action is required
  • Explain that, as a gesture of goodwill, you can offer further treatment to the patient that may resolve a side-effect they are experiencing
  • Offer a refund for the treatment cost as a gesture of goodwill

Following the above steps should help to bring a swift resolution to a notable complaint.

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Formal claims

If you receive a formal notification you must report it to your insurer as soon as possible. We will ask you for the following documentation to support your claim:

  • Solicitor’s letter or request for compensation
  • Full patient consultation and consent documentation
  • Treatment photographs
  • Any leaflets/booklets or electronic documents relating to the treatment that were provided to the patient
  • Training certificate for the practitioner(s) who have performed the treatment(s)
  • Any correspondence between you and the patient
  • Summary of how you feel the treatment has gone and whether you agree with the allegations. It is important that you are honest and open with your insurer so that they can decide the most efficient way to handle the claim on your behalf. If a mistake has been made during the course of the treatment you must tell your insurer – they will not penalise you. The quicker your insurer can deal with a matter the lower the costs incurred will be

Top tips to prevent a claim

Claims can and do happen, but there are preventative measures you can take to minimise the chances of a claim being made against you.

1. Patient selection

It's vital to make sure that your patient is the right patient for the treatment. If there are any indications during the consultation and consent process that suggest they are not suitable for the treatment then it may be worth advising them that you do not think you are the right practitioner for them as you cannot meet their expectations. Read our ultimate guide to patient selection for more information.

2. Understand their motivations and manage their expectations

Understanding your patient’s motivations will help you assess whether they are the right patient for you. When discussing their expectations be open and honest about whether you feel they are achievable. It's a good idea to document this in your consultation notes as well so that there is evidence that you have had this conversation.

3. Make sure you document everything and have timestamped photos
4. Make sure the patient understands the aftercare advice given

It's recommended that you provide patients with either an electronic or physical copy of aftercare information that they can refer to after they have left the clinic.

5. Be contactable post-treatment

If you know you're not going to be available then make sure you provide contact details for a peer or colleague who your patient can contact instead. This will prevent the patient from panicking if they develop a side-effect post-treatment and are unable to contact you, and can avoid any concerns from escalating.

6. Make sure that you have a comprehensive complaints procedure in place

Don't worry that this might encourage your patients to make a complaint against you, but instead feel confident that it provides you with a clear and professional process if you do receive a complaint. Having a clear and comprehensive complaints procedure in place means that you can deal with any complaints efficiently and consistently if you need to.

While your aim is to always have satisfied patients, complaints can happen and a successful aesthetic practitioner should welcome any feedback, good or bad. It's wise to take steps to minimise complaints from happening in the first place, but it's equally important that you take any complaints made against you seriously, investigate them in full and resolve them as efficiently and effectively as possible.

If you're covered by Hamilton Fraser, our in-house claims team will work with you to resolve complaints of dissatisfaction and try to prevent them from escalating into a formal claim. Our goal at Hamilton Fraser  is to make sure that you are provided with help at every stage of the claims process until a conclusion is reached.

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