Long-Term Acute Care Hospitals Prove Superior in Terms of Cost, Care

Long-term acute care hospitals provide better outcomes and more cost-effective care when treating critically ill and medically complex patients.

A new study published in Medical Care found that long-term acute care hospitals (LTCH) provide better outcomes and more cost-effective care when treating critically ill and medically complex patients.

Researchers from the National Association of Long Term Hospitals (NALTH) examined non-ventilator patients with multiple organ failures who spent 3 days or more in an LTCH intensive care unit. Of this population, the authors of the study discovered that the patients had similar or lower Medicare costs as well as lower mortality rates.

By comparing LTCH patients to those in other skilled nursing facilities and inpatient rehabilitation facilities, researchers found that Medicare costs differed specifically for patients at an LTCH with circulatory, digestive and musculoskeletal and connective tissue conditions. These patients had lower costs ranging from $13,806 to $20,809.

"As our population ages and the incidence of chronic disease increases, critically ill and medically complex patients will represent a growing segment of the Medicare population," Lane Koenig, PhD, director of Policy and Research for NALTH, and the study's lead author, said in a statement. "Because care for these patients requires a significant amount of healthcare resources, it's important to identify cost-effective treatment approaches."

The study identified 5 diagnostic categories using Medicare data from 2009-2010, which included respiratory, circulatory, digestive, musculoskeletal, and connective tissues, and further examined high severity cases. Researchers reported that LTCH care was the superior treatment option for 7 of the 10 research groups, while another group demonstrated reduced mortality but at a higher cost.

"LTCHs must be part of the conversation as payers seek ways to improve outcomes and reduce treatment costs for patients with significant illnesses," Cheryl Burzynski, NALTH president, added.