As the medical complexity of patients continues to increase, it is important for providers to be flexible in their ability to respond to current and future patient needs.
But flexibility isn’t just important in an immediate crisis— it’s something healthcare leaders should be thinking about amid a rapidly changing healthcare landscape, as patient preferences and reimbursement continue to shift.
This article offers insights into co-location, a market expansion model that allows health systems to be more agile in their ability to respond to shifting needs.
To effectively prepare for the future, health systems should consider co-locating a variety of services on their hospital campuses beyond short-term acute care, including rehabilitation, long-term acute care, and behavioral health, and allow for beds to be designated flexibly across these services.
The Case for Co-location
Advances in medicine and growth in life expectancy have led to an increase in the complexity of cases in health systems throughout the country. “Health systems are going to have to be able to provide very specialized care, all within their continuum, to support medically complex patients and make sure they have the best possible outcomes,” said Benjamin Breier, Kindred Healthcare CEO.
While the pandemic has empowered leaders to break down barriers to innovation, it also has brought on a looming behavioral health crisis. Public health experts said in a British Medical Journal blog that they believe “the mental health impact of the pandemic is likely to last much longer than the physical health impact.”
Finally, a wave of consumerism across healthcare settings is requiring health systems to exert more influence over the patient experience across the care continuum. Consumers have access to more information about healthcare organizations than ever before and are increasingly doing their own research to determine the best setting of care for themselves and their loved ones. Breier believes this is ultimately driving patients to choose a post-acute care option that allows them to go home as quickly and safely as possible.
“Health systems across the country are being forced to quickly adapt and respond to rapidly changing patient needs, all while maintaining financial stability and high-quality outcomes. Co-locating multiple services on a single campus and offering these specialty services within a system’s continuum opens the door to more high-quality programs that have a positive impact on the health system,” said Breier.
How co-location and bed flexibility benefit patient and population health:
1. Ease of Access
Patients who require high-intensity rehabilitation services in a hospital with co-located services are able to transition to a new, focused care setting located on the same campus, eliminating the need to transfer elsewhere. Transfers between facilities not only can be high-risk and challenging from a medical perspective, but are also inconvenient for patients.
2. Continued Specialized Care and Differentiation From Post-Acute Competition
By co-locating specialized services on-site and integrating an interdisciplinary rehabilitation program into their campus, leaders enable daily access to a physician that specializes in rehabilitation and helps to ensure 24-hour RN coverage of patients in their care. When combined with a long-term acute care hospital (LTACH), specialty physicians can also be promptly available if requested for patient needs.
3. Shortening Length of Stay
Intensive rehabilitation care within an acute rehabilitation unit (ARU) can reduce length of stay, and be more cost-effective when compared to other post-acute settings. It also can reduce readmissions—a key indicator under value-based reimbursement. Patients who receive care in an ARU are significantly more likely to return to the community instead of back to an acute-care hospital.
4. Resolving Gaps in Inpatient Behavioral Health
Behavioral health inpatient beds are at an all-time low, and demand is incredibly high. This model offers significant financial incentives to take on inpatient behavioral health beds. Co-locating more behavioral health beds on a health system’s campus helps get patients out of the Emergency Department faster, frees up medical-surgical capacity and gets patients the specialized care they need.
Specialty Hospital Partnership Solutions
Kindred partners with health systems to develop co-location and specialty service strategies that meet the specific patient needs and opportunities in the communities they serve.
“Kindred is unique in that we provide flexible service line offerings, such as LTACHs with specialized acute rehabilitation units or dedicated behavioral health units,” Breier said. “We work with the partners to determine the best solution to meet the needs in their community—whether it’s a specialized unit, a hospital within a hospital or working together to build a new free-standing hospital.”
To learn more about the benefits of co-location, visit kindredrehab.com
Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services works with more than 300 hospital-based programs nationwide to bring the best possible clinical and operational outcomes.