How to do it... Short-term rehab

1. The first rule: Know your niche.

“A lot of our customers want a clinical niche, but I would caution that some research be done prior to declaring that niche,” says Leigh Ann Frick, PT, MBA, chief clinical officer for Heritage Healthcare/HealthPRO© Rehabilitation. “First, find out what your competitors are doing and don't do that. Meet with your referral sources and see what they see as the needs for a clinical specialty.” 

One approach is becoming a center of excellence for specific conditions or injuries, says Larry Lemberger, national account manager for Biodex Medical Systems.

Providers must not get into it for the wrong reasons.

“Since short-term therapy calls for a totally different set of skills than nursing, you need to determine if you are committed to pay more, staff at higher levels and offer higher-level education opportunities,” cautions Kristy Brown, MS, CCC-SLP, president and CEO of Centrex Rehab. “If not, your objective to attract patients will not work well.”

Maayan Wenderow, director of marketing for EarlySense, adds: “There's been a rising complexity of patients over the years and I think facilities need to show their commitment to manage them.”

Brown observes providers already in the business sometimes forget that short-term rehab is very different from long-term care and experience turnover as a result. 

2. Maintain strong referral sources. They're essential to your business, Lemberger and Frick agree. 

“It's important to not only build relationships with your referral sources, including physician groups, home health, outpatient and other SNF providers, but also with entities up and down stream within the continuum,” Frick says. “ACOs and bundled payments are all about collaboration across silos.” 

Top performance ensures more referrals, which are crucial.

“Just having the data and presenting it to the right people will put you in a select group, but outperforming your peers will win you new referral sources,” says Peter Klug, director, category management, clinical and rehabilitation for Direct Supply Equipment & Furnishings. He suggests marketing your program to doctors and discharge planners, using success criteria on rehospitalization rates, length of stay and outcomes.

3. Be hospitable but not hospital-like. Baby boomers expect creature comforts such as private rooms and hotel-like amenities, say Matt Sivret, senior vice president, clinical operations, Kindred Healthcare Rehabilitation Services, and Mark Besch, vice president of clinical services at Aegis Therapies. 

Provide plenty of space for rehab, but also ensure your residents have the privacy and comfort they expect, adds Sivret. 

Don't forget, however, that “referral sources look less for physical amenities and more at service levels like expanded hours for admissions, early intervention for rehab and frequent therapy sessions,” Besch adds.

4. A speedy recovery trumps everything else. Your ultimate goal with short-term therapy is getting patients healed and on their feet again, experts agree.

“Short-term patients typically expect to return home as soon as they are able to. Understanding these goals is critical,” says Sivret. 

“If patient-focused, coordinated care is not there and presented to the patient in a very organized manner, it will not be successful,” Centrex's Brown cautions. 

To prevent functional declines, therapists must review use of all adaptive equipment to be used in discharge environment and when appropriate, create a home exercise program after skilled rehab care, says Evergreen Rehab Clinical Specialist Renee Kinder, M.S. CCC-SLP RAC-CT. 

“Clinicians may consider use of pictures or videos, completing exercise tasks or using adaptive equipment in order to promote understanding,” she advises.