The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, administered through the California Department of Aging, was established through the Older Californians Act  in response to the federal Older Americans Act.  The purpose of the Ombudsman program is to identify, investigate, and resolve complaints that may adversely affect the health, safety, welfare, or rights of residents of long-term care facilities. Federal law requires states to ensure that Ombudsmen have access to long-term care facilities and residents, appropriate access to review the medical and social records of a resident, as specified, and access to other specified records of residents and the facility. Furthermore, states are to prohibit willful interference with the functions of the Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, and to provide for appropriate sanctions with respect to interference, retaliation, and reprisals. 
Ombudsman Access to Protected Health Information
According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), resident authorization is required for third party disclosures of protected health information (PHI).  The facility can only disclose PHI without a written authorization in the following instances:
PHI is used for treatment, payment, or operational purposes;
The facility has provided the resident with the Notice of Privacy Practices; and
The facility has made a good faith effort to obtain the resident’s signature acknowledging receipt of the Notice of Privacy Practices.
Therefore, written authorization by the resident or the resident’s responsible party should be obtained before the Ombudsman may access resident PHI. Alternatively, oral consents can be accepted, but must be witnessed by a third party and documented to be valid. This is the only scenario in which the facility should permit oral authorizations. Upon request by the Ombudsman, the facility must provide the name and contact information of the resident’s conservator, legal representative, or next-of-kin of any resident.
The Ombudsman may access the resident’s PHI despite the resident’s guardian or conservator if:
The facility or Ombudsman is unaware of the existence of the guardianship or conservatorship;
The guardian or conservator cannot be reached within three working days; or
The Ombudsman has reason to believe that the guardian or conservator is not acting in the best interest of the resident.