Grandma or not, there's more to post-acute care than you think

Grandma or not, there's more to post-acute care than you think

By Jessica Beard on October 3rd, 2013

A few weeks ago, my grandma slipped on her daily trip to get the mail. While she will be just fine, the minor injury to her knee has ensued in a brace, walker and a raised toilet seat. Grandma will be back to new soon enough, but this made me think about her friends, as well as my friends’ grandparents, and all of their collective ailments – some worse than others. Not to mention the millions of others outside of my tight circle.

In fact, with advancements in healthcare and technology particularly, the “old” are living well beyond retirement age, making up an unprecedented 12 percent of the population. Further, baby boomers are beginning to hit the retirement age, which will cause this percentage to increase exponentially.

From home medical equipment (HME), prosthetics and orthotics, to daily care from home health and hospice providers, post-acute care is becoming one of the largest and most critical, integrated components of healthcare. So, what does this mean for the industry? A few reasons why post-acute care should be top of mind for providers and executives in 2014:

  • Growing patient population. As mentioned, the aging population is first and foremost driving our attention to post-acute care. In 2000, 2.5 million Americans turned 65, and that number has increased to 3.5 million in 2013. As it is, 35 percent of hospital stays and 38 percent of emergency medical responses comprise of those 65 and older. Providers certainly must be prepared for the dramatic impact on daily workflows and operations as well as the unique cases presenting from the older population, but also what happens to them after discharge, such as more orders with HMEs and closer alignment with home care providers. This leads to our second point – hospital readmissions.
  • Hospital readmissions. Reducing hospital readmissions has always been a goal for healthcare. However, with penalties for readmissions now in place, hospitals are really starting to look at outside ways to improve 30-day readmission rates. There’s a value in skilled post-acute care nurses and facilities and home care providers as they often hold the key in keeping readmissions low. Historically, most organizations have put a stop in care when the service runs out – an almost “the buck stops here” mentality. But, this change in penalties and shift toward pay-for-performance has changed perspectives for hospitals. It’s evident now more than ever that post-acute care holds a distinct key in assisting hospitals with reducing readmission rates.
  • Accountable care. As the presence of accountable care organizations (ACOs) continues to rise, healthcare organizations must consider post-acute care part of the global picture. Currently, ACOs are primarily focused on the ambulatory and acute part of the picture. As spending within post-acute care grows dramatically in the coming years, ACOs will begin incorporating post-acute care as a vital piece to their referral network. In addition, patients transitioning to post-acute care oftentimes have difficulties adjusting to the new care setting, so patient care and satisfaction could also greatly benefit from integrating this setting into an ACO network.

While I primarily think of my grandma when it comes to care of the elderly, there’s far more to the big picture. The business, financial and, most importantly, patient quality impact of post-acute care will be tremendous on overall healthcare success in the coming years, and now is the perfect time to begin incorporating a cohesive approach to capitalize on the opportunities and stay ahead.