Jul 26, 2023 - Health

Report: hospitals still struggling to discharge patients

Illustration of an exit sign with a red cross replacing the "t"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hospitals are struggling to discharge recovering patients to less intensive settings amid staffing shortages at nursing homes and home health agencies, a new report from WellSky finds.

Why it matters: Patients who remain hospitalized longer than necessary can reduce the overall capacity of the facility, limit the ability to treat new patients and even cause canceled or delayed procedures, the report noted.

What they found: Patients are showing up sicker and in need of more post-acute care. In January, referral volume to nursing homes or home health care was at 118% of the average monthly volumes in 2019.

  • But home health agencies hit a record 76% average rejection rate in January and February, and about 61% of nursing homes are limiting new admissions.
  • The report covered more than 2,000 hospitals and 130,000 post-acute care providers who serve more than 13 million patients.

What they're saying: "Providers need to arrange more services post-discharge, such as physical therapy, behavioral health, and medication management. These factors can make it more challenging to manage care and ensure a safe and successful transition," the report said.

The intrigue: Some pandemic-era solutions could help alleviate the discharge crunch.

  • Hospital-at-home programs that deliver hospital-level care in patients' homes received an extension from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services through 2024.
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