Short-term rehab soars to No. 1 service in SNFs

Short-term residents, who usually stay for a few weeks or months while recovering from a surgery or an illness, are now the majority resident demographic at most skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), according to the American Health Care Association 2012 Quality Report released this week.

In 2009, less than one-quarter of SNF residents stayed for a year or longer. Of those who stayed for shorter times, 80 percent were admitted for short-term rehabilitation.

Yet, the acuity of residents’ clinical conditions in general continues to rise, even among shorter-term stays. About one-third of all SNF residents have chronic medical conditions and co-morbidities, the report notes.

The changing demographics have a direct impact on the range of services needed at SNFs, the report explains. With two distinct populations emerging, SNFs must be able to provide long-term eldercare with its growing focus on memory care and dementia and must be able to provide short-term rehab services with its strong focus on activities for daily living and occupational/physical therapy.

Within facilities, attention to quality of care and performance-driven incentives has driven up the quality measurements assessed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Nationwide, the use of restraints has been cut in half, and rates for pressure ulcers have dropped 29 percent.  

Although work remains to be done, the improvements to date reflect the long-term care industry’s increased focus on quality improvement and greater accountability, the report notes.

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