Professional indemnity insurance for Doctors – Good communication helps prevent complaints

The Medical Board of Australia released its latest medical student newsletter on 30 Sep 21 and it contained a section on the topic of “Good communication helps prevent complaints”.

Whilst professional indemnity insurance policies can help respond to complaints and legal action, it is always best to prevent them in the first instance.

The Board noted :

Medical practice is complicated and there will be times in your career when things don’t go as well as you hope or expect. Sometimes, patients or their families raise a concern with Ahpra and the Medical Board about their doctor.

Managing complaints about doctors is one of the jobs of the Board and Ahpra. Each year, there are around 5,500 complaints Australia-wide about medical practitioners. Most complaints lead to no further regulatory action, and no lasting impact on your registration or your ability to practise medicine.

Good, clear communication is the most effective way to avoid misunderstandings and prevent complaints. Good medical practice includes:

  1. Listening to patients, asking for and respecting their views about their health, and responding to their concerns and preferences
  2. Informing patients of the nature of, and need for, all aspects of their clinical management, including examination and investigations, and giving them adequate opportunity to question or refuse intervention and treatment
  3. Trying to confirm that your patient understands what you have said
  4. Responding to patients’ questions and keeping them informed about their clinical progress.
  5. Patients raise a concern when something in the consultation hasn’t gone well for them. Sometimes their concern is about quality of care or a clinical issue, but almost always a communication breakdown is involved.

Good communication skills are central to good medical practice and build over time. It is important to reflect on the experiences you have with your patients and your colleagues. Discuss with trusted colleagues what things went well and what didn’t in your interactions with patients and learn from your experiences to improve your communication skills.


General advice on this website has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on the advice, consider its appropriateness