Seniors who seek rehab at higher-rated short term nursing facilities are less likely to transition into long-term care facilities afterward, finds a study published online first in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“Experts have raised concerns about the uneven quality of SNF services, the substantial differences among them, and how they are used in different parts of the country,” wrote researchers, led by James S. Goodwin, M.D., of the Sealy Center on Aging, University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX.

The researchers studied the role of skilled care quality, based on publicly available Five-Star ratings, and how they affected older adults’ need to enter long-term care facilities. They reviewed Medicare data for more than 500,000 people 65 and older with short term stays, many of which rolled over into long-term stays exceeding 100 days.

Investigators found that a person’s risk of eventual placement in long-term care nursing homes varied, based on the facility where they received care. Staffing ratios and inspections were most closely associated with LTC placement rate.

“It is reasonable to believe that more nursing staff per resident would result in fuller recovery and lower risks of LTC placement,” they wrote.

Other facility characteristics associated with greater risk of LTC placement include having short-term and long-term care beds in the same facility, lower occupancy overall and a rural location.

Learning more about processes in place at specific SNFs might help explain variations in care and could help guide efforts to return more older adults to the community following hospitalization, they found.