WellSky, a leading health and community care technology company, released a new report highlighting five key trends impacting post-acute care providers in the wake of the pandemic. Opportunities and Challenges: The Transformation of Post-Acute Care in America uses Admission, Discharge, and Transfer (ADT) and referral data sourced from over 1,000 hospitals and 130,000 post-acute care providers, along with publicly available data from Medicare.gov, to provide an in-depth look at the characteristics of hospital inpatient and post-acute patient populations, demand for post-acute care, patient preference for where to receive post-acute care, and labor shortages across the industry.

The pandemic has had an outsized impact on the delivery of healthcare in this country. As clinicians and caregivers attempt to return to “normal,” there are looming questions about which shifts will remain regarding consumer preferences, patient populations, and the workforce. Written by Sharon Harder, president of C3 Advisors LLC and a widely respected healthcare finance and compliance expert, the detailed report shows five areas in which permanent changes could be likely:

  1. Hospital inpatient populations—The data shows that hospital inpatient admissions declined in 2020 as COVID-19 infection rates grew and the elective procedures that hospitals relied on to generate revenue were temporarily curtailed. This has caused some inpatient procedures to become outpatient procedures, a trend that may never revert to post-pandemic levels.
  2. Demand for post-acute care services—As the pandemic surged in the second quarter of 2020, inpatient rehabilitation and hospice referrals gained momentum while skilled nursing facility (SNF) referrals dropped. However, in later quarters, while SNF referrals recovered somewhat, referrals to all other post-acute venues returned to pre-pandemic levels, showing a strong rebound in the demand for services.
  3. Preference for care at home—Patient preferences began emerging once the pandemic was in full swing, with home health referral volume significantly outpacing SNF referrals every month after April 2020. By May 2022, home health referrals still accounted for most of the new post-acute destination volume with home health referrals coming in at 123 percent of the 2019 levels.
  4. Labor shortages impacting access to care—By the first quarter of 2022, the rate of referral rejection among SNFs had climbed to 88 percent even as the number of referrals grew. The most cited reason for rejection was diminished staff capacity. Home health referrals doubled from 2019 to 2022 for the same period, and the rejection rate grew to a high of 71 percent.
  5. Sicker patients coming to post-acute care—Patients coming to post-acute care from hospital stays are sicker than in the past. WellSky data show that obesity is up 11 percent in 2022 among SNF residents and complications of hypertension and diabetes among home health patients are up by 25 percent and 34 percent respectively.

“Post-acute care is an integral component of the care continuum and has the power to transform care delivery as we know it today,” said WellSky CEO Bill Miller. “Effective post-acute care is proven to reduce expensive rehospitalizations, improve health outcomes, and lower the overall cost of care. Understanding the key drivers of change in this part of the industry is critical to sustaining its growth and ensuring the system continues to deliver positive benefits for patients.”

[Source(s): WellSky, Business Wire]