1 Identifying the ideal candidates who will benefit most from short-term rehab is essential. People with orthopaedic issues such as knees and hips, and cardiovascular patients, are great candidates because proper care allows them to return home quickly, says Jim Rogerson, COO, HealthPRO Rehabilitation and president of Therapy Partners of Ohio. Short-term rehab can include physical, occupational and speech therapy.

But providers need to be careful: “Patients with a long list of medical complexities sometimes complicates their rehab potential and may require additional services or even medical holds until the issues are resolved,” cautions Shelly Mesure, senior vice president, Orchestrall Rehab Solutions and McKnight’s “Rehab Realities” blog expert.
Covenant Care and Select Therapies, for example, focus on the short-term patient “with any diagnosis that allows for us to establish goals and deliver care with the goal of returning them safely to a prior level of function, home, or a lower level of care,” says Judy Elmore, vice president, ancillary services.

2 Meanwhile, a provider should never overlook short-term rehab patients’ specific needs, or they will pay the consequences.

“These patients tend to be more demanding from an amenities and services perspective, so more of a hospitality and less of an institutional approach is of great importance,” adds Elmore. “Don’t assume that these patients will adapt to the traditional long-term care environment, because they won’t, and will look to other providers for their needs.” “If the short-term patient is dissatisfied with the amenities or their location, many times they will go to a competing provider for the remainder of their recovery,” Mesure adds.

3 Short-term rehab also demands special attention to treatment protocols, emphasizes Leigh Ann Frick, vice president of clinical services for Heritage Healthcare.

Providers should “work with their therapy department to establish rapport with the orthopaedic physicians in the area to ensure their expectations are being met,” she says. Providers also should be prepared to have appropriate quality assessment and measurement tools to determine the needs of the residents, Elmore adds.

“Clinical treatment options should also include the latest types of modalities, such as diathermy to help address pain issues, and scar tissue treatment and management options through nursing and rehab interventions,” Mesure notes.

4 Never lose sight of the first word in “short-term” rehab.

“Delaying any therapy services is a common mistake,” Mesure says. “CMS government regulations allow therapy up to 72 hours to respond to physician orders. However, if a patient is admitted on Friday and doesn’t receive therapy until Monday, the patient may transfer to another facility as a result.”

5 Short-term rehab calls for special skills, so training is paramount.

For example, a qualified therapist should be the one performing individual patient assessments, says Tracy Storz, marketing administrator for Biodex Medical Systems.

At the end of the day, don’t turn to short-term rehab without fully committing to it being “an important part of your business and structure yourself to accommodate these patients,” advises Elmore. This includes having well-trained nurses and therapists.

6 The best short-term rehab program, of course,  is useless unless it generates customer referrals.

“Therapists like these types of patients as they are very motivated and likely to progress quickly and significantly,” says Frick. “Success breeds referrals and facilities gain great PR from this. If the facility can generate a good reputation, it can have a continual referral artery.”