Why your future will be a numbers game

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John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
Many skilled care operators seem to have similar-looking websites.

There's often a soft-focus photo of a smiling resident who looks remarkably good for her age. Typically, she's seated next to a youngish caregiver who could teach Mother Teresa a thing or two about exuding empathy.

Then there are the touchstone terms that keep getting recycled, such as “compassion,” “caring,” and “mom.” There's nothing wrong with marketing your community in this manner, by the way. Except that it may soon be of little value.

In the looming world of acute-care partnerships, warm and fuzzy imagery is going to take a back seat to cold, hard data. So if you're feeling like a number now, just wait.

Do you think hospital discharge planners will be focusing on how “satisfied” your residents are? Or how much curb appeal your facility has? Or the building's lovely exterior? Think again.

Hospital discharge planners are going to be a lot like broken down horse players. But instead of consulting the Racing Form, they'll use data dashboards to hedge their bets. And the name of the game they will be handicapping is this: Don't Return To Sender.

How will you be sized up as a discharge option? Largely by how far you deviate from the norm. As the data tools serving hospitals' needs improve, they'll know plenty about how “safe” it is to place a patient in your care. They will seek SNFs that are least likely to return patients within 30 days. For if they lose that bet, CMS plans to hurt them in the worst way possible – by cutting their Medicare payments.

If the available information indicates you are a 2% higher risk than the SNF down the street, guess where the ambulance stops?

You may counter with “But I am a 5-Star facility.” Congratulations. That and $1 may get you a large coffee at a fast food restaurant. Those stars will not mean much unless the data being parsed by the discharge planner is equally kind.  

If they are looking to release a patient with diabetes and diabetes care happens to be your Achilles' heel, they will know that – possibly before you do. They'll also have access to the rehospitalization odds for any other nearby SNF.

Of course, the opposite will also be true. If the numbers show you happen to deliver stellar care in a particular area – say chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – you'll be getting a cornucopia of such patients.

There is no denying that admissions will become more of a numbers game. And the sooner you can figure out how yours stack up, the better off you are likely to be.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.