Post-Acute Care: Is a Paradigm Shift in Order?

October 11th, 2016 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized

Post-acute care may be undergoing a dramatic shift in how care is offered.

The road to recovery from an accident, surgery or other procedure can be a long one. You may spend time at a rehabilitation center, a post-acute care wing of a hospital or simply in your own home. 

Researchers have found that there is considerable variation in post-acute care, however. With greater access to technology that allows for improved communication and accountability, it may be possible that a shift in post-acute care is right around the corner. 

What the data says
According to Healthleaders Media, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has seen a steady growth in post-acute care coverage since the mid 2000s. Making it one of the fastest growing segments of healthcare currently covered by government services

Researchers at UCLA found that among post-acute claims, hospital surveys and other records, there was variability in the type of care offered. These findings underscore the need to consider more oversight and standards in post-acute care.

Post-acute care at home is a useful option for some patients.Post-acute care at home is a useful option for some patients.

For example, the different hospitals referred patients to home care at different rates. This wasn't linked to changes in patient outcomes, but it was found that hospitals that used in-patient services or had shorter length of stays also had higher readmission rates. Dr. Gregory Sacks, a Robert Wood Johnson/Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar and lead investigator of the study explained this trend.

"These findings suggest that some hospitals may be using post-acute care as a substitute for inpatient care," noted Sacks. "This might lead to patients being discharged from the hospital prematurely, which then drives the higher readmission rates."

Accounting for variations in care
Hospitals must walk a fine line between treating patients efficiently and quickly without neglecting certain needs. Sacks stated that this could account for the trend his team of researchers found. He also believes, however, that the findings represent an already out-dated model.

Because of regulations in President Barack Obama's health care law and changes in the marketplace, hospitals have new incentive structures to avoid readmissions. If a post-acute care patient must return for further care or to mitigate unforeseen complications, the hospital could face serious financial consequences. As a result, there is now a much greater focus on coordinating care and delivering solutions that fit an individual's needs. 

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As a result, future variations in care may actually be reflective of a patient's specific lifestyle or ailment, rather than a reflection of a hospital policy or payment structure. Coordination between different health professionals, as well as with patients, families and caregivers may lead to better, more targeted post-acute care.

Applying technology
The Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association reported that providers that use an individual's Electronic Health Record data in predictive models and advanced analytics tools were able to identify at-risk patients much better. For example, some algorithms were able to decrease falls among older patients by 10 percent. This use of software and technology makes post-acute care more personalized and powerful.

For providers, great coordination through technology is essential when making referrals. Post-acute organizations can serve patients more effectively with the inclusion of a rich health history and the ability to communicate with a primary care physician in real time. This is also true if you're visiting specialists or seeking a second opinion. At the same time, other tools such as wearable heartbeat sensors and other devices give doctors much greater access to a your health status even in an at-home setting.

In this way, post-acute care away from a traditional health care organization can be more precise and reactive. Technology can make communication and coordination between you and health care professionals smoother and more effective, to the benefit of the quality of post-acute care.

Source: Sunrise Senior Living

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