The Scottish Health Council report recommends that health boards be more proactive in gathering and using feedback to improve health services.
The report, Listening and Learning, finds that NHS Scotland has made progress since the introduction of the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011. However, it urges health boards to remove the "fear factor" around complaining, warning that one of the main barriers highlighted by the public to giving feedback or making a complaint is fear of repercussions for their own or relatives' treatment.
It added that many members of the public were unaware of how to give feedback, and suggested hospitals could use photo boards in wards to help patients and family members identify who is in charge and to encourage all types of feedback.
Scottish Health Council director Richard Norris said: "In order to achieve safe, effective and person-centred care, it is vital that the NHS listens and learns from what people say about the NHS."