Litigation Management Strategies for Senior Living & Social Services Facilities
What Can Be Implemented at Your Facility?
When M3’s Senior Living and Social Services (SLSS) team sits down with a group of defense attorneys and asks them to share their knowledge and insight, good things happen. Each attorney has a chance to provide unique perspective and experiences, and the group as a whole becomes stronger, more unified, and better prepared to represent and defend our clients. Take a look at key takeaways from our recent discussion:
- Incident reports do not belong with residents’ charts. Keep incident reports and investigation materials separate from the residents’ charts and records. Although the insurance company and attorneys need this information, along with any notes or personnel files, it should be kept out of the charts/records.
- When in doubt, use the phone. People often rely on email to communicate, creating a written record of things that may be taken out of context. When dealing with sensitive situations, it’s usually better to make a phone call.
- Keep the Plan of Care current. A resident’s condition can change quickly causing his or her needs to increase. Providers need to update the Plan of Care as often as necessary. If records indicate the condition has changed but the Plan of Care has not been updated, it’s difficult to show that care was being adjusted. Plus, updated plans can be helpful in refreshing employees’ memories.
- Charting can make or break a case. While it takes staff away from hands-on care, good charting is essential when a lawsuit needs to be defended. It is especially important to chart and otherwise document any communications taking place with the resident’s primary care physician or responsible family members about changes in condition.
- Speaking of primary care physicians and responsible family members… Get to know them and communicate frequently with them. Greet them by their first name. Ask them about their concerns and if there’s anything you can do for them. Invite them to participate in events at the facility. It’s important for them to get to know the staff, especially the aides who provide daily care.
- Contact the insurer immediately after a sentinel event occurs. Be prepared to discuss what happened and what is being done to prevent it from happening again. Ask the insurer for suggestions on how to communicate with the resident and/or family members following the event.
- Contact the insurer immediately when a records request is received following a sentinel event. Make sure you don’t provide any records until they have been reviewed by the insurer or an attorney.
- Consider the use of arbitration agreements. Arbitration moves forward much more quickly than a lawsuit, and there’s less expense. This benefits both parties.
- Add an introduction section to your policy manual. It’s important to state that the policies listed therein are guidelines, and that any suitable manner of performing care or treatment is acceptable. Policies should be revised routinely; and those that are unrealistic or impossible should be deleted, i.e., it’s impossible to keep all residents’ call lights within reach “at all times” since many locations within the facility don’t even have call lights (dining rooms, hallways, lobby, etc.).