What Is a Healthcare Ombudsman? Nebraska Guide for Facilities

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Written by Danielle Roques, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nursing home resident sits in her wheelchair, looking out the window of her room.

Elderly long-term care residents are at risk of loneliness, isolation, and poor care quality. They often lack the support systems and resources necessary to ensure safe and appropriate care. Healthcare leaders can mitigate these risks by partnering with a state health ombudsman. Nebraska facilities that collaborate and problem-solve with these patient advocates can optimize care quality and build trust among care providers, patients, and their families.

In this guide, we’ll review the services offered by the Nebraska ombudsman office and provide tips for facilities looking to partner with ombudsmen to boost patient satisfaction and improve health outcomes.

What Is the Nebraska Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program?

The federal Older Americans Act was created to help elderly citizens gain access to essential community services like transportation assistance, food supplies, and healthcare. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP), created as part of the OAA, protects older Americans living in care facilities and ensures that organizations across the nation are compliant with government rules and regulations.

Each state is mandated to develop its own ombudsman program to provide oversight and advocacy for patients receiving long-term care. The Nebraska ombudsman program protects residents living in:

  • Nursing homes
  • Hospice centers
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Adult day care
  • Long-term rehabilitation centers

Health ombudsmen serve as mediators between facility staff and patients to ensure that each individual receives the dignity and respect they deserve. They work directly for the patient, prioritizing their needs and advocating for healthcare justice at the local, state, and federal levels.

What Is the Role of a State of Nebraska Ombudsman?

Omaha, Nebraska is home to the state ombudsman office, where employees and volunteers mediate, negotiate, and resolve care complaints. Addressing patient needs is the priority of a health ombudsman, meaning that these advocates represent healthcare residents and don’t serve any regulatory or oversight agencies. They don’t provide direct patient care, but serve residents by:

  • Educating them, their families, and care teams about the services and resources available to them.
  • Assisting with complaints like abuse, neglect, improper discharge planning, quality and choice of food, and poor medication distribution.
  • Providing information on legal rights and policy changes to patients and facilities, and suggesting changes to governmental agencies when appropriate.
  • Serving as a liaison for patients and their families to address grievances and identify possible solutions.
  • Advocating for change at the government level to improve each individual’s care.

Why Should Stakeholders Partner With a State Ombudsman?

For nursing home staff, ombudsmen may be seen as adversaries. Employees may be concerned about ombudsman visits and believe that the representatives are there to fire them or take other adverse actions against their facilities.

It’s important to realize that ombudsmen get involved to assist staff and optimize care, not to punish providers. While they exist to serve patients, their involvement can help relieve caregiver burdens and make the caregiving experience better for everyone.

By partnering with a state ombudsman, Nebraska healthcare leaders, patients, and their family members can develop long-term solutions to protect patient rights. Here are a few example scenarios that demonstrate how ombudsman partnerships can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life.

Patient Dissatisfaction

A resident makes repeated requests for vegan food options, but facility leaders report that “catering to individual dietary requests isn’t possible.” After finally addressing concerns to their family member, an ombudsman complaint form is filed.

Two weeks later, the ombudsman makes a visit to the facility and has a conversation about the necessity of adequate food options with facility management, providing meal resources to assist with the menu change. A vegan menu is drafted and ingredients are ordered for the following week.

Staff Concern

A nurse is concerned about her patient assignments and believes that they inhibit appropriate care. She wants to have a discussion about safe patient ratios with facility administrators, but isn’t sure how to initiate the conversation.

She reaches out to a Nebraska ombudsman for help and they provide guidance on how to structure difficult conversations with healthcare leaders. They send her resources on Nebraska’s policy on safe patient ratios and schedule an in-person meeting for the following month to see if adjustments have been made.

Family Frustration

For the third night in a row, an elderly patient with dementia has fallen on his way to the toilet. His son voices his frustration to care providers, but medical assistants claim they’ve done everything possible to prevent the fall and are following hospital policy.

The patient’s son calls the Nebraska health ombudsman office, and a fall prevention meeting is scheduled for the following week. All family members, patients, and care staff are invited to attend and discuss care improvement strategies with the ombudsman.

At the conclusion of the meeting, it’s discovered that patients are falling off of the toilet because of poor balance. Additional handrails are purchased and installed in every restroom and additional bed alarms are purchased to prevent confused patients from exiting their beds without supervision.

How Can Facilities Prepare for Visits From a Health Ombudsman?

Nebraska ombudsmen are required to visit each long-term care facility annually and after receiving complaints to ensure healthcare standards are met. When preparing for an ombudsman, Nebraska healthcare teams can follow these three strategies to make the most out of each site visit:

  • Educate all stakeholders. Disseminate program information to staff and empower them to teach patients and their family members about ombudsman services.
  • Engage with ombudsmen. Health ombudsmen want to interact with staff members and develop meaningful solutions to improve outcomes. Encourage your team to ask questions and to speak up on issues that impact safe patient care.
  • Respond to care concerns promptly. After an ombudsman identifies an issue at your facility, it’s important to address this concern in a timely manner. Doing so can prevent small problems from becoming bigger in the future.

Find More Ways to Support Patients and Improve Care Quality

Discovering creative ways to improve health outcomes can be challenging. By partnering with a state ombudsman, Nebraska long-term care facilities can ensure their patients receive the best possible care. Don’t miss out. Healthcare teams can find more solutions to improve satisfaction and regulatory compliance in IntelyCare’s free newsletter.