Thomas Martin

Patients transitioning from acute to post-acute care have specific care needs, and the transition out of the hospital is the critical opportunity to identify high-quality providers that can best treat the patient.

Knowing this, on Sept. 30, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services finalized the discharge planning requirements of the IMPACT Act, addressing post-acute care transitions, patient choice and patient access to medical information. At its core, the final rule requires that hospitals share quality and resource use measures about skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, inpatient rehabilitation facilities and long-term care hospitals with patients and their families.

The final rule also implements discharge planning requirements that address patient goals of care and treatment preferences, with the desired outcomes of increased transparency, patient empowerment and quality care. 

While many acute providers implemented steps to get ahead of the IMPACT Act over the last several years, these finalized requirements put added pressure on post-acute providers to achieve and maintain high quality and to share their provided services. And there’s no time to wait: The final rule is effective Nov. 29.

Here are three ways to succeed as a post-acute provider under new IMPACT Act requirements: 

1. Maintain quality ratings 

For post-acute providers, the final rule highlights the importance in achieving and maintaining consistent, high-quality CMS ratings. The IMPACT Act requires hospitals to assist patients and families in selecting high-quality post-acute providers by sharing key performance data. CMS star ratings are the simplest way to indicate quality and an easy data point that hospitals can share with patients and families. Overall, maintaining high quality scores will be paramount to remaining a top choice for patients.

2. Cultivate strong relationships with acute partners

The recently finalized discharge planning requirements mandate that the acute discharge planning process must address the patient’s goals of care and treatment preferences. It is in the best interests of post-acute facilities to share with acute partners the clinical services they offer and communicate these specializations with referring partners.

By fostering strong relationships with referral facilities, hospitals will better understand the kind of services provided — and which patients are best-suited — for each of their post-acute partners. When the time comes to refer patients, the hospital will already know the appropriate facility to meet specific needs.

Through this collaboration, referral networks can achieve improved patient outcomes, reduced readmissions and achieve higher quality scores. Post-acute facilities will also maintain a healthy pipeline of referrals with acute partners in their network.

3. Implement solutions to track patients beyond your care setting 

To fulfill the IMPACT discharge planning requirements, hospitals must provide patients with quality and resource-use measures. The quality measures shared by the hospital are likely to come from publicly reported sources such as Nursing Home Compare and Home Health Compare. As CMS pushes the industry to become more patient-centric and encourages interoperability across the care continuum, many of these publicly reported measures follow the patient across care settings, including successful discharge to community, emergency room visits and hospital readmissions. 

However, many post-acute providers currently have limited visibility into a patient’s care beyond the post-acute setting, and it will be exceedingly challenging to improve these quality measures unless they can gain further insight into what happens to patients after they leave. To better track patients beyond their four walls, post-acute providers will need to implement care coordination technologies, which will also help increase acute referrals, strengthen relationships with referral sources and improve quality measures across the care continuum.  

Educated patient choice is the only choice, because in this day and age, no patient should choose the next step in their care journey from a paper list. It is critical to facilitate informed patient choice in the discharge planning process under IMPACT Act requirements, and it is in the best interests of post-acute providers to assist hospitals in doing so.