Recently, the American Hospital Association published in its newletter Trendwatch a detailed 16 page article entitled “The Role of Post-Acute Care in New Care Delivery Models,” December 2015.   The article discusses what we have been trying to tell our post-acute care, especially nursing home clients, for years: become a valued partner of an Accountable Care Organization (“ACO”) and be ready to show your value to those ACOs, or continue to operate as you historically have at your own peril.

When ACOs first started, there was virtually no room or focus on long-term care providers being involved in an ACO. Some hospitals talked initially about home health care, but very little discussion was geared towards long-term care providers being in an ACO network because hospitals did not understand the long-term care environment.

The publication of the AHA Trendwatch article shows that finally hospital CEOs seem to be waking up to the value behind post-acute care delivery and the importance of those delivery models in an ACO setting.

What struck me as being interesting about the article was the hospital and ACO intense focus on quality and improving outcomes through the post-acute care setting.   The article talks about post-acute care facilities as being long-term care hospitals (“LTCH”), inpatient rehabilitation facilities (“IRF”), skilled nursing facilities (“SNF”), and home health agencies (“HHA”). Not only have hospitals caught up to these providers, but they are focusing on utilizing each of these post-acute care providers in a way that optimizes value and outcomes for the patients.

Surprisingly, the article discusses SNF strategies to become high value partners which is something our firm has been telling our clients for years in the long-term care area. Namely, the article discusses increased use of modalities to treat short term stays, increased rehabilitation therapy provided in the nursing home, care coordination through a SNFist which focuses on care management in the SNF, and technology, all in an effort to reduce re-hospitalizations and to improve patient quality and outcomes.

It is about time that ACOs are waking up to the importance of post-acute care models. Finally we have a focus on these modalities by ACOs. Equally heartening are the seemingly increased efforts that ACOs make to improve post-acute care delivery, just as ACOs have been used to doing in the hospital setting for years. Now it is the post-acute care provider’s turn to thrive through concerted ACO management and effort.