As litigation continues to pose significant challenges for skilled nursing facilities, it becomes crucial for SNF leadership teams to proactively address the underlying factors that can lead to legal disputes. 

One key factor that has emerged is the role of trust-building through quality communication between SNFs and families. In an era where many families seek legal counsel to find answers about what happened to their loved ones, shocked by the suddenness and seeking closure, building trust through effective communication is more important than ever. 

By focusing on strengthening communication and trust, SNF leadership can mitigate litigation risks and foster positive relationships with families. Here are three proactive steps that SNF leadership teams can take to improve communication and build trust:

Emphasize transparent communication

Transparent communication is the cornerstone of trust-building in any relationship, including that between SNFs and families. SNF leadership should prioritize open and honest communication with families, recognizing the emotional toll and the need for answers that families may be experiencing. 

Ensuring that families are regularly updated about their loved one’s care, treatment plans, and any changes in their condition can provide a sense of comfort and understanding. Clear and compassionate communication can help alleviate concerns, provide closure, and foster a sense of partnership between the SNF and the family, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings or escalating disputes.

Foster active family engagement

Active family engagement is a powerful tool in creating a collaborative care environment. SNF leadership can go beyond mere communication updates and actively involve families in care planning and decision-making processes. 

By inviting families to participate in care conferences, seeking their input, and actively listening to their concerns and questions, SNFs can demonstrate their commitment to addressing families’ need for answers. This inclusive approach can lead to better outcomes, as families feel respected, valued, and more likely to develop a positive rapport with the SNF, thereby reducing the inclination to seek legal counsel for answers.

Implement robust communication protocols and technological solutions

Establishing and implementing robust communication protocols, supported by innovative technology, is vital to ensuring consistent and effective communication within the SNF. SNF leadership should proactively develop and adhere to clear guidelines for communication practices, including addressing families’ concerns and inquiries promptly. 

Implementing user-friendly communication platforms and electronic health record systems can streamline communication processes, making it easier for families to receive updates and ask questions. These technological solutions enhance accessibility, accuracy, and efficiency, improving overall communication and reducing the chances of miscommunication or missed information.

Ben Pyper, Partner at Informed Medical, has 12 years of experience as a skilled nursing operator. He is passionate about improving communication in SNFs to foster trust and mitigate litigation risks.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.