Managing Difficult Patients


Patients come in all different personalities. Some are pleasant, well-behaved, and committed to whatever their care plan says is required of them to get better. Others may not share that same positive outlook. In fact, some patients can cause you to crack open your dictionary to look for a word that is unpleasant enough to describe them. Not every patient will be the right fit for your personality, yet may find a kindred spirit in another member of your team. It’s just a trait of human nature.


Now let’s take a second to consider your industry. As with most of the medical field, you probably have one patient and several customers to consider. Hypothetically, Betty Lue may be your patient. However, her primary care physician, oncologist, cardiologist, children and spouse all become influencers in the care she receives and the perception of your services. We’ve all had a difficult patient who complained about their care. Those complaints can often reach your referral sources and jeopardize your future business.

The best way to deal with those situations is simply to address them head on. They are the potential hindrance on you receiving future referrals from your referral source, so how do you manage them both efficiently and effectively? The first and most important is to practice proactive communication. More than likely, your team or you will know if this patient or their family poses a problem from you first interaction. You need to leverage your internal communication to ensure everyone knows how delicate the situation is. You also need to manage communication with the referral source, so they know that you may to see a problem as well. That way, if there is a problem, they are aware and if there are no issues, then you can boast about how your team rose to the challenge and ensured that the patient was satisfied.

Another key strategy is to make sure sales is involved early on. With clinical staffing shortages the way they are, you may have little choice but to utilize a member of your team who lacks some of the social graces that you may prefer in a situation like this. Salespeople, by their very nature, are trained to win people over. Having a member of your sales team in contact from early on and being a net for challenges and complaints will help you keep those complaints from ever reaching your referral sources. It also put them in position to alert your referral sources when a problem seems unresolvable. They are most likely able to share the challenges faced and either own up to a mistake, or explain from the perspective of your organization. Either way, it puts your best person on the job.

Another key variable to consider is that you may not be the only one that finds this patient difficult. By probing your referral sources, you can gain some insight to the patient’s personality. The best time to do this is right after you get the referral and before you actually make contact. If the patient is identified by your referral source as difficult, then sharing your experience can help you to gain further rapport and acquire more referrals. If you manage to keep this difficult patient and their connected influencers happy, then you will be seen as exceptional and they may refer to you because they are either sorry for the inconvenience or confident in your ability to handle these types of situations.

A customizable CRM like Enquire, allows you to track patient temperament or difficulty. You can easily evaluate if your referral sources are sending you difficult or high-maintenance patients and provide you with an opportunity to reallocate your sales efforts. Having valuable data like that cross-referenced with claims-based analytic information can refine your selling process and ensure that your company is growing and that you remain profitable. If you’d like to discover how we are helping organizations grow in an increasing competitive market, email us at or sign up for a demo here.

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