Spurred by an aging population, rehab programs will experience a major influx of patients with medically complex patients in the coming years. By 2030, for instance, stroke prevalence is expected to rise 21% and more than 1.2 million citizens are projected to have Parkinson’s disease.1,2
This poses a significant challenge to rehab leaders – how do you best prepare for the increase of medically complex patients? This article examines three areas where your rehab program can evolve to best treat medically complex patients: clinical staff, technological innovation and patient and family-member experience.
Getting Clinically Prepared: Staff
A mistake rehab programs make is serving this new medically complex patient population with the same staffing model used in the past. Not optimizing staff for the new patient demographic can lead to operational inefficiencies and subpar outcomes. Certain roles are particularly important for treating medically complex patients.
Rehab-certified nurses, unlike standard medical nurses, are trained to help patients with disabilities and chronic illnesses achieve functional improvements. They understand the treatments and systems used specifically in rehab environments, expertise that translates to faster recovery and more efficient programs.
Speech therapists play an important role in helping patients reach optimal functionality. For instance, receiving speech therapy early in the rehab process is most effective at treating aphasia, which is present in up to 38% of stroke patients.3
Clinical liaisons work with patients and their caregivers to help establish if a patient is the right fit for rehab and to ensure continuity of care. Highly trained clinical liaisons are needed to achieve optimal timing for a patient’s entry into rehab -- a key part of a program’s efficacy is providing the right level of care at the right time.
Adapting Through Tech Innovation
By embracing new technologies, rehab programs and their patients can reach new levels of performance.
Upgrades to Develop Best-in-Industry Brain Care Centers
New technology is vital to developing leading rehab programs that stand out within the market and deliver the best outcomes. Robotics are among the tools making the biggest impact for this changing patient population.
For instance, BIONIK InMotion robots physically guide brain injury patients through tasks by supporting their arms4 and are especially effective for treating patients who have suffered strokes, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. Similarly, robotic exoskeletons like the EksoGT can speed recovery and functionality, especially for patients relearning to walk.
Positioning Patients for Positive Outcomes
Integrating follow-up calls and caregiver resources into standard discharge procedures helps to deliver optimal outcomes for patients and rehab programs. Brain injury patients who receive follow-up calls have better medication persistence rates and are more likely to attend clinic visits, which correlates with reduced readmission risk.1
Follow-up calls allow patients and their caregivers to ask questions and dispel misunderstandings. Nurses can review medications, repeat instructions, address new problems and confirm appointments.
Supporting the Adult Child Caregiver
Many medically complex patients have an adult child as a caregiver. Resources that support the caregiver help reduce readmissions and improve patient outcomes. Examples of such resources5 include:
- Transitional Support to prepare the caregiver as the patient transitions to in-home care;
- Educational Materials that address the patient’s care journey;
- Case Managers who serve as the caregiver’s contact person;
- Peer Support Groups to help caregivers find emotional support and learn relevant coping skills; and
- Mobile App Technology that allows patients and families to set goals, track progress and share updates, which improves rehab engagement and outcomes.
Developing rehab-specific expertise around staffing, tech innovation, and patient- and caregiver-experience can lead rehab programs to new levels of success.
Optimizing Your Program
As the largest provider of rehab therapy in the country, Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services leverages its deep clinical expertise, extensive rehab data, and innovative technology to help rehab programs across the country achieve clinical and operational success. To learn how KHRS can help your rehab program best prepare for the changing patient demographic, visit www.kindredrehab.com.
1 - Kristen M. Poston. Reducing readmissions in stroke patients. American Nurse Today. Dec 2018. https://www.americannursetoday.com/reducing-readmissions-in-stroke-patients/
2 - C. Marras, J.C. Beck, et al. Prevalence of Parkinson’s disease across North America. npj Parkinson’s Disease. Jul 2018. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41531-018-0058-0
3 - Amanda Dragga. The Role of Speech-Language Pathologists in Stroke Rehabilitation. Neurorehabilitation. Rhode Island Medical Journal. Dec 2015. http://www.rimed.org/rimedicaljournal/2015/12/2015-12-20-neuro-dragga.pdf
4 - Keith Shaw. Companies Make Strides in Improving Stroke Rehabilitation With Robots. Feb 2019. Robotics Business Review. https://www.roboticsbusinessreview.com/health-medical/companies-make-strides-in-improving-stroke-rehabilitation-with-robots/
5 - Jill I Cameron. Supporting Caregivers Across the Care Continuum. University of Toronto: Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. http://www.gtarehabnetwork.ca/uploads/File/bpd/2017/Concurrent_AM-B_Caregivers_across_Continuum_Jill_Cameron.pdf
Kindred works with over 150 hospital-based programs nationwide to bring greater success and better outcomes to their rehabilitation settings.