Long-Term Care Hospitals: Wonderful or Waste?

Among the alphabet soup of medical abbreviations, you may have heard of an LTACH and wondered what that was.

Long-term acute care hospitals (LTACH), also known as Long-term Care Hospitals (LTCH) are hospitals specializing in patients who require extended hospitalization. The legal definition of an LTACH is “a hospital that has an average inpatient length of stay of greater than 25 days.”

Patients commonly stay at an LTACH for care when they’re on a ventilator long-term, or when they’re battling more than one condition. Patients with very complicated illnesses that require extended hospital stays are also referred to LTACHs. Very often, their families are told they can get much better care at an LTACH than at a short-term hospital or long-term skilled nursing facility.

But is that really true?

There isn’t a lot of evidence supporting better outcomes for LTACHs. In fact, new research suggests the opposite.

The study, authored by a team from Standford, MIT, and University of Chicago respectively, found that “substitution to LTCHs leaves patients unaffected or worse off on all measurable dimensions.” The study also suggested that Medicare could save 4.6 billion dollars a year by reimbursing long-term hospitals at the same levels as skilled nursing facilities.

In fact, their data showed that LTACHs didn’t produce statistically significant declines in patient mortality over a 90-day period, nor did they improve the odds that a resident would eventually return home.

Most of the services offered at a long-term acute care hospital can also be received at a skilled nursing facility like Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation. At Regency, we offer all skilled nursing services, including IV and oxygen therapy.

Some individuals, such as some ventilator-dependent patients, may require extended acute care. But according to this study, most patients—and Medicare—may be better off with skilled nursing.

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