Comply: If the ombudsman identifies an issue, see this as an opportunity to improve the quality of your care services. Act on any advice from your ombudsman in a timely manner to ensure similar issues don’t happen again.

What Is a Healthcare Ombudsman? Utah Guide for Facilities

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Written by Katherine Zheng, PhD, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse holds the hand of an elderly nursing home resident.

In the late 1960s, several reports about the mistreatment and neglect of nursing home residents came to light. In response, Congress amended the Older Americans Act and established a national Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program, requiring each state to protect the rights of LTC residents using a health ombudsman. Utah in particular has established a comprehensive program that helps both residents and facilities address LTC-related issues.

As an LTC facility leader, you can utilize your local ombudsman office as a resource to improve the quality of your care. To help you to get the most out of their services, we’ll walk you through what an LTC ombudsman in Utah does and how to prepare for potential interactions with one.

What Is the Utah Ombudsman Program?

Aligned with the goals of the national program, Utah’s ombudsman office seeks to improve the care delivered in LTC settings — specifically, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The state’s ombudsman office provides extensive training for staff and volunteers who must receive certification to work as an ombudsman. Once certified, an ombudsman advocates for the rights of LTC residents and helps address issues reported across different LTC facilities.

What Does a Utah Long-Term Care Ombudsman Do?

In more general terms, an ombudsman is defined as an impartial party that investigates and resolves complaints made by individuals against organizations. In relation to long-term care, this involves any complaints that patients, their friends or families, or other concerned parties make about a care facility.

The LTC ombudsman will conduct an investigation if they receive the consent of the person who files a complaint. They’ll work closely with this individual to ensure issues are resolved fairly for all involved parties.

Beyond investigating and addressing filed complaints, there are many other duties carried out by an ombudsman. Utah’s staff and volunteers are also trained to:

  • Educate residents, families, and facility staff about LTC regulations and resident rights.
  • Help facilities adhere to Utah’s discharge and transfer requirements.
  • Participate in state-wide and national advocacy efforts to improve resident care.
  • Help residents and their families seek appropriate LTC services.
  • Visit facilities and continuously monitor the quality of care being delivered to residents.
  • Identify systemic issues pertaining to the state’s LTC services and facilities.
  • Refer residents to state agencies if issues can’t be resolved through an investigation.

Who Can Seek Help From an Ombudsman?

While Utah’s ombudsmen are primarily trained to advocate for the rights of LTC residents, they’ll help anyone who’s concerned about the health, welfare, or safety of older adults. This includes LTC staff, facility leaders, and all other individuals experiencing LTC-related issues. Examples of people who may want to contact the ombudsman office include:

  • Residents who want to appeal a questionable discharge or transfer.
  • Individuals interested in becoming a volunteer at the ombudsman office.
  • Residents or families who want information about LTC services in their area.
  • LTC staff who are concerned about the way their LTC facility is managed.
  • Facility leaders seeking guidance on how to adhere to Utah’s LTC rules and regulations.

Who Is Your Ombudsman? Utah Contact Information

Utah’s ombudsman offices are spread throughout the state. The ombudsman you should contact will depend on the county you or your facility is located in. However, you can also reach out to the state’s main ombudsman office for general inquiries or questions about how to reach your designated ombudsman. The contact information for the State’s office is provided below.

                                                                      Utah Ombudsman Contact Information
State Ombudsman Alianne Sipes
State Ombudsman Phone Number   (385) 222-1273
State Ombudsman Address 195 North 1950 West

Salt Lake City, UT 84116

State Ombudsman Website
State Ombudsman Email

Tips for Facilities Undergoing Investigations

While your ombudsman is always available to answer any questions you may have, they’ll need to conduct an investigation if they receive a complaint about your facility. This may feel like a stressful situation, but remember that your local ombudsman is trained to find a fair resolution for both you and your residents.

This is why it’s in your best interests to remain cooperative and help your ombudsman resolve any potential issues. Follow these tips to help the investigation goes as smoothly and quickly as possible:

  • Communicate: If your ombudsman asks you about the situation at hand, be as transparent as possible. Provide them with all the information they need to understand the reported issue and resolve the case fairly.
  • Collaborate: Keep in mind that your ombudsman would rather work with you than against you. If your ombudsman invites you to discuss your facility’s care services, engage with them so that you can work together to find a reasonable solution.
  • Comply: If the ombudsman identifies an issue, see this as an opportunity to improve the quality of your care services. Act on any advice from your ombudsman in a timely manner to ensure similar issues don’t happen again.

Take Practical Steps to Improve Care for Your Residents

Looking for feasible ways to act on the advice of your ombudsman? Utah facility leaders can start here. Our expert-written hub of articles offers free and accessible tips that can help you keep your residents safer, healthier, and happier.