Jindou Lee

Few industries are as heavily regulated as long-term care facilities. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 is the main federal statute that all operators must follow, but there are thousands of other codes at the federal, state and local level that must be adhered to so that care facilities can maintain their accreditation, avoid costly penalties, and remain eligible for Medicare payments.

While most minor infractions can be easily addressed, larger problems can have a catastrophic effect on a facility’s ability to stay in business.

There is no single “magic bullet” that will eliminate all possible problems, but radical improvements to inspections carried out by facilities managers can prevent small issues from escalating into major problems and also provide evidence that they are acting in good faith to comply with all relevant codes related to safety, property condition, and residents’ well-being.

Inspections are an important part of maintaining good conditions, but they are often thought of as a “necessary evil” because they create lots of paperwork and headaches for property professionals. And to add insult to injury, they usually don’t even do much more than let inspectors (literally) check off a box to indicate that something was looked at. It’s the worst of both worlds — it’s both time-consuming and ineffective.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

For starters, most checklists don’t directly map to all of the regulations that long-term care facilities need to address. So while the “handrail properly secured” box may be on the form, other items such as “bed linens washed daily” may be missing. That’s a major missed opportunity, because in the event of an investigation it’s critical to prove that all required activities were successfully completed. Mobile inspection platforms can eliminate these gaps by empowering users to customize forms to cover specific statutes. This makes dispute resolution much easier and faster, and provides direct answers to any questions that could arise.

The other major advantage of a mobile platform is that inspectors can take photos as part of each review, so that they can provide visual evidence of compliance. This is essential, because in the event of a dispute or accusation of improper conduct it’s almost impossible to disprove an allegation. Photos eliminate that gray area by allowing responsible operators to offer definitive proof that they were in compliance with all regulations. And when it comes to maintaining accreditation and Medicare eligibility, that level of evidence could mean the difference between success and failure.

From signing documents to communicating with caregivers to storing medical records, pen-and-paper is quickly becoming obsolete in long-term care, and inspections are no different. Not only do mobile inspections reduce risk, but they are also an opportunity to improve the employee experience and show workers and residents alike that your operation is committed to innovation. Inspections may never be “fun” for anyone, but a mobile inspection platform with a modern user experience can go a long way toward keeping employees engaged in this essential, yet often-overlooked, activity.

Jindou Lee is CEO of HappyCo, a San Francisco-based technology company that builds mobile and cloud solutions to enable property operations.