With greater emphasis being placed on care transitions and readmission rates, inpatient rehabilitation units have incredible potential to become high-performing centers of excellence that create greater patient access and enhance the performance of the entire hospital.
However, many programs today do not reach their full potential because operational expertise and resources are difficult to develop and maintain. There are many regulation constraints – including the 60% rule and the requirement that patients receive at least three hours of therapy per day, five days per week – making compliance and efficient care delivery more challenging.
By following the 10 outlined steps below, rehabilitation units can drive greater value for their hospital while increasing patient access to these much-needed services.
1. Assess the performance of your inpatient rehabilitation unit.
Have you successfully adapted to treating the growing medically complex patient population? This can be achieved by integrating best practices around infection control protocols, providing thorough education and continuous training to clinical staff and utilizing highly-trained clinical liaisons.
2. Evaluate internal and external market demand for rehabilitation services.
With expected growth in market share, it is important to evaluate where patients are going to receive rehabilitative care and where there is an opportunity to keep patients within the system. Understanding internal and external opportunities and implementing strategies to capture downstream business will increase market share and stabilize program volume.
3. Determine strategic direction for your rehabilitation unit.
Should you expand upon or consider opening a rehabilitation unit? A rehabilitation unit provides a seamless transition for patients in need of intensive, quality rehabilitation services and contributes to the hospital’s financial performance, while boasting low readmission rates back to acute care or other care settings.
Operations and Patient Access
4. Ensure appropriate leadership expertise.
Leaders must have expertise, beyond staffing, to optimize the overall performance of a rehabilitation unit. Given the complexities of this service, program leaders need to be skilled in patient access, medical staff management, staff recruitment and leadership, regulatory compliance, as well as operational and financial management.
5. Market your rehabilitation unit internally and externally.
Maintaining optimal patient volume and case mix requires a focused, integrated and disciplined approach. This includes a team approach as well as pre-admission screening to ensure the right patients are admitted to your program at the right time in their recovery journey.
6. Measure and track outcomes.
The ability to track and report outcomes is critical for quality improvement and positioning for reform initiatives. Do you capture and track clinical quality metrics? Are you able to compare outcomes to peer facilities? Do you measure hospital readmission rates? Can you demonstrate superior outcomes?
7. Know the regulations and comply.
Federal and state regulations require constant attention and oversight, especially following the increased scrutiny and high denial rates many facilities face. Do you have a comprehensive pre- and post-admission process to comply with regulations? Are you equipped with a dedicated appeals and denials team to efficiently navigate the ever-changing denials landscape?
Medical Oversight/Staffing Issues
8. Become CARF-Accredited.
Accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) can help demonstrate to patients, payers and referral sources the quality of clinical care, service delivery and overall excellence of your rehabilitation services. Further, they improve the comprehensiveness of patient treatment and the range of patients a program may treat, as well as support improved program performance.
9. Choose medical directors carefully, define expectations, and provide education and training.
It is important to ensure medical directors are engaged members of the team and have the tools they need to drive program results. It’s also crucial to remain flexible as the healthcare landscape fluctuates due to regulatory changes and population needs.
10. Invest in staff education and utilize an interdisciplinary approach.
Ongoing training and education for staff is critical for the delivery of quality care, skill enhancement and leadership development. Further, an interdisciplinary team approach within the hospital has shown proven results during times of public health uncertainty.
The Bottom Line
Inpatient rehabilitation units are a growth opportunity for hospitals and an important component of the care continuum. Understanding the intricacies of rehabilitation can help hospitals improve quality outcomes, their competitive advantage in the marketplace and, most importantly, provide an unparalleled level of patient care.
Whether you closed your unit, reduced admissions, or limited diagnostic types as a result of the pandemic, Kindred Rehabilitation can help you relaunch this service line. To learn how Kindred can help optimize the performance of your rehabilitation unit, visit kindredrehab.com.
Kindred Rehabilitation works with more than 300 hospital-based programs nationwide to bring the best possible clinical and operational outcomes.