LTACHs Commit to Excellence
LTACHs play a unique and very important role in the patient journey, as they serve patients with medically complex conditions, particularly those suffering from multi-system complications who need extended recovery times—a hospital stay often 25 days or more. After care in an LTACH, many patients transition to acute rehab, a skilled nursing facility, or home.
Managing Patient Overflow during COVID-19
LTACHs are always valuable, but they stood out during the pandemic in a few key ways. One was by helping manage patient overflow from other hospitals. When the government lifted admission restrictions, removed payment barriers and provided more funding in 2020, LTACHs stepped up to handle patient overflow from at-capacity hospitals, relieving the burden of over-crowding, particularly for COVID-19 patients who required isolation or long hospital stays. LTACHs were able to provide beds, clinical and specialty care, and more space for these patients–a major relief for other area hospitals.
The waived rules are part of legislation known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which helped expand patient access as a means of increasing hospital capacity by waiving prior restrictions on admission requirements. Although it’s uncertain if the government will continue to waive the rules, suspending the requirements, even temporarily, allowed LTACHs to fulfill a vital role while also showcasing that they are uniquely equipped to treat critically ill, complex, and medically fragile patients.
A Renewed Commitment to Excellence
During the pandemic, LTACHs have also demonstrated their continued commitment to excellence through rigorous surveys, achieving accreditation and for some CHC ContinueCARE Hospitals, working toward one or more levels of excellence from the Center for Improvement in Healthcare Quality (CIHQ).
The CIHQ is the nation’s newest accreditation provider approved by CMS to deem acute care hospitals as meeting Medicare Conditions of Participation. The program strives to ensure patients receive care that exceeds minimum government standards. To achieve accreditation status, hospitals must complete a rigorous process. Center of Excellence designation demonstrates to patients, staff, and payers, that the hospital provides quality care. The various certifications recognize strength of leadership and the empowerment of clinicians through knowledge and education, peer review, and accountability.
CIHQ Center of Excellence Status
A Center of Excellence not only recognizes exemplary performance, but also measures the use of standards and outcomes to promote quality of care and services. To achieve this milestone, LTACHs formed sub committees, looked at policies and practices, and analyzed what they needed to update, change, or modify based on CMS standards. With help from the Quality Director and other leaders, they built a framework to hold each other accountable while identifying areas for improvement and preparing for upcoming audits.
For example, preparation for CIHQ Center of Excellence in Nursing involves:
- Demonstrating excellence daily
- Networking with nursing leaders across LTACH facilities
- Achieving a master’s degree (Nurse leader/CNO)
- Investing in continued education
Thanks to the dedication and diligence of these LTACHs, one thing is certain: LTACHs play a critical role in providing quality care.