Patient complaints in healthcare services in Vietnam’s health system

Bui Thi Thu Ha, Tolib Mirzoev, Rosemary Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There is growing recognition of patient rights in health sectors around the world. Patients’ right to complain in hospitals, often visible in legislative and regulatory protocols, can be an important information source for service quality improvement and achievement of better health outcomes. However, empirical evidence on complaint processes is scarce, particularly in the developing countries. To contribute in addressing this gap, we investigated patients’ complaint handling processes and the main influences on their implementation in public hospitals in Vietnam. Methods: The study was conducted in two provinces of Vietnam. We focused specifically on the implementation of the Law on Complaints and Denunciations and the Ministry of Health regulation on resolving complaints in the health sector. The data were collected using document review and in-depth interviews with key respondents. Framework approach was used for data analysis, guided by a conceptual framework and aided by qualitative data analysis software. Results: Five steps of complaint handling were implemented, which varied in practice between the provinces. Four groups of factors influenced the procedures: (1) insufficient investment in complaint handling procedures; (2) limited monitoring of complaint processes; (3) patients’ low awareness of, and perceived lack of power to change, complaint procedures and (4) autonomization pressures on local health facilities. While the existence of complaint handling processes is evident in the health system in Vietnam, their utilization was often limited. Different factors which constrained the implementation and use of complaint regulations included health system–related issues as well as social and cultural influences. Conclusion: The study aimed to contribute to improved understanding of complaint handling processes and the key factors influencing these processes in public hospitals in Vietnam. Specific policy implications for improving these processes were proposed, which include improving accountability of service providers and better utilization of information on complaints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSAGE Open Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Patient rights
  • Vietnam
  • patient complaint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine

Cite this