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Reporting a Complaint about a Health Care Facility

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) is attentive to your concerns about the quality of care and services provided by an Indiana health care facility. As the State Survey Agency for health care facility licensing and certification, the IDOH provides oversight for facility compliance with health care rules and regulations. Through projects and initiatives, the IDOH also promotes health care quality improvement.

If you have an issue with a health care facility, the IDOH encourages you to immediately alert the administration of the facility of your concerns in an effort to provide the facility opportunity to internally address and correct the concerns. Every health care facility should have a rapid response team to assist you in addressing any health care quality of care concern.

The IDOH conducts a comprehensive survey of a facility anywhere from once a year to once every several years depending on the type of facility and their survey history. The phrase “complaint survey” refers to a limited survey where an individual has requested the IDOH to review a specific concern at a health care facility. The complaint process is an important component of the oversight and quality improvement process. Complaints assist the IDOH in promoting health care quality by alerting us to potential quality of care issues. By identifying potential issues, the IDOH is better able to address any issues and develop resources to assist in preventing future problems.

When the IDOH receives a complaint, a “survey” (sometimes referred to as an inspection) is conducted at the facility, agency, center, or clinic to review the issue. Complaints are prioritized based on the potential harm to patients or residents. A complaint survey is then scheduled based on that prioritization. Complaint surveys may occur as quickly as a day or two after the complaint is received. A low priority complaint survey may not occur until the facility’s next regularly scheduled comprehensive (annual) survey. The survey is conducted by health care professionals specifically trained in health care rules, regulations, and procedures. Surveyors evaluate the facility based on minimum standards established in applicable rules and regulations.  A survey report is generated by surveyors for each survey.

Forms

Complaint Report Form
While there is no prescribed form or reporting method, to assist the public in reporting concerns, the IDOH created a Complaint report form that may be used to report to the IDOH a health care concern about a health care facility. The form allows individuals to fill in information and submit their complaint electronically.

How to report a complaint about a health care facility to the IDOH

The following are ways to report a complaint about a health care facility to the IDOH:

1.  Fill out and submit the online complaint form

2.  Fax (317-233-7494) or email (complaints@isdh.in.gov) a description of the issue to the Indiana Department of Health

3.  Call the Indiana Department of Health

  • Toll-free Complaint Report Line: 1-800-246-8909 [available during state business hours]. When calling the complaint report line, you will be transferred to the Complaint Reporting Program if there is an available intake specialist.  If there is not an intake specialist available to take the call, your call will go to the report line voicemail and your call will be returned as soon as possible.
  • If the complaint report line is busy, you may call the voicemail line at 317-233-7241 and leave the report on voicemail.

4.  Mail written complaint to:

Indiana Department of Health
Health Care Facility Complaint Program
2 North Meridian Street, 4B
Indianapolis, IN 46204

What should be included in the complaint?

Prior to contacting the IDOH, it is helpful to prepare a summary and log of events related to the issue. It is recommended that you take the time to document any complaints by simply making notes on what occurred. It is helpful to surveyors if they have approximate dates of events, the caregivers, and care issues. To assist you in gathering information necessary to effectively investigate a complaint, the guidance below has been designed to provide you with the type of questions that the IDOH will ask in the complaint intake process.

The Complaint report form is a tool available to assist you in identifying information helpful to the surveyor in evaluating the care issue. The form is not required. An individual may simply send an email, fax or letter that includes the pertinent information. If you call the Toll-free Complaint Line, the intake specialist taking your call will likely ask similar questions.

Although it is not mandatory to provide all of the information listed below, this information is helpful for the investigative process. The following information is helpful to include when reporting a complaint:

Your Contact Information - Include your name, address, phone number, and email address so that a surveyor may contact you for additional information and input or provide you with survey results.

Location of Facility - Name and address of the facility

Date - Try to recall the date (if a specific date is applicable) of the occurrence you will be addressing.  If there is no specific date, attempt to address the time period (e.g., weekdays, weekends, within the last week, within the last month, etc.) relative to when the concern was observed.

Time - Provide the time of day (or shift) during which your concern was observed or was most prevalent (e.g., 7 a.m., day shift, evening shift, night shift, etc.).

Individuals Involved - List individuals (or departments) involved in the concern you are reporting (e.g., nursing staff, certified nurse aides, dietary staff, etc.) and how each individual was involved.

Specifics of the Concern - Keep in mind a concern is much more likely to be identified by surveyors if you are specific in your reporting. For example, if you believe the care to be poor, examples of the behavior you have observed that define what you are referring to as "poor care" should be reported.

  • Example: If you are dissatisfied with meal service, it is best to describe with what aspect you are dissatisfied with (e.g., food temperature, presentation, taste, wrong diet, etc.).
  • Example: If you don't think the facility is sanitary, specifically state what makes it unsanitary (e.g., dust, debris, soiled floors, etc.).

Timely Reporting - It is imperative that we be notified of your concerns in a timely manner. It is difficult to effectively gather information surrounding an incident that has occurred months before. To assist in accurate and thorough investigations, we ask that you report a concern as soon as possible following its initial occurrence or observation.

After a Complaint Is Filed - The name of the person who files a complaint and any specific medical information given in the complaint is confidential. Within 7-10 days after you contact the IDOH, you will receive a letter from the IDOH Health Care Facility Complaint Reporting Program verifying that we have received your complaint and we are going to investigate. Complaints are investigated in order of severity. For example, complaints involving immediate threats to a resident's health care and safety receive top priority. During the investigation, surveyors will attempt to contact you to gather additional information. After the investigation has been completed, we will inform you in writing of the results of the investigation.

Frequently Asked Questions

May complaints be anonymous?

Yes, a complaint may be submitted anonymously. An individual does not have to disclose his or her identity. The IDOH investigates an anonymous complaint the same as a complaint where the IDOH knows the identity of the complainant.

Regardless of whether or not the complaint is submitted anonymously, under state law the IDOH does not identify or release the name of the individual submitting the complaint. During the survey of the facility, the surveyors will take precautions to protect the identity of the complainant and the patient or resident who is the subject of the care issue.

Providing your contact information is helpful to the surveyor who is assigned the survey. During a complaint survey, the surveyor will attempt to contact the individual submitting the complaint to provide the individual the opportunity to clarify or add additional information. Surveyors may have additional questions about a patient or resident’s medical history so having contact information is helpful to the surveyor in evaluating care issues.

More questions?

If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to call our toll free complaint number: 1-800-246-8909.

Contact the IDOH

Indiana Department of Health
Health Care Quality and Regulatory Commission
Health Care Facility Complaint Program
2 North Meridian Street, 4B
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 233-7442 (Long Term Care Receptionist)
(317) 233-1325 (IDOH Main Switchboard)
Map

Toll-free Health Care Facility Complaint Line
Phone:  1-800-246-8909

Complaint and Incident Reporting Program Director
Karen Smith
Email:  ksmith@isdh.in.gov
Phone: 317-233-7709
Fax: 317-233-7494

Links

The following links may be of interest to consumers.

IDOH Health Care Facility Consumer Reports
The IDOH created several Consumer Reports that provide information about health care facilities and entities.  The information includes location, contact information, administrators, services provided, and survey history.  The reports are searchable.  This page also links to CMS Compare sites and information on selecting a health care facility.


Page Last Updated June 2021