Skilled nursing providers shouldn’t expect referrals to return to pre-COVID-19 levels soon, thanks to a fundamental shift in how hospitals, health systems and other providers view the post-acute discharge process, several health experts predicted during an April leadership panel hosted by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.

Pre-COVID “if we could qualify [patients] for a skilled stay, that’s where we took them,” said Mark Terpylak, D.O., senior vice president of population health at Summa Health.

“We don’t do that anymore,” he said. “We fundamentally ask ourselves at the time of discharge from acute care, ‘Can we send them home, first and foremost, and support them in a home environment?’” 

Bryan Crum, director of post-acute care management at Summa Health, added that lower patient volumes, which convert to fewer downstream referrals to SNFs, also are driving the philosophical shift.

“That’s something I don’t think switches back,” Crum said. “I think we’re going to have a new normal. That new normal is going to likely be less admissions for the hospital, and I think that’ll be more compounded for some of the skilled nursing in the community.”