Rise of Medically Complex Patients: Prepare Your Rehabilitation Program

Hospital-based rehabilitation programs are expecting to see a major influx of medically complex patients, including those with neurological conditions, in the coming decades. However, COVID-19 has further spurred the drastic increase and caused an immediate rise in medically complex patients with multiple comorbidities.

For example, stroke prevalence is expected to rise 21% by 2030, and more than 1.2 million citizens are projected to have Parkinson's disease.1,2 Moreover, patients experiencing prolonged symptoms of COVID-19, also known as long-haulers, are expected to face additional medical complexities and disabilities.3

Stroke prevalence is expected to rise 21% by 2030, and more than 1.2 million citizens are projected to have Parkinson’s disease by 2030.

This leaves hospital leaders with a significant question: What can be done to care for the current and future medically complex patient population, especially in a hospital rehabilitation setting? By efficiently and effectively evolving to meet the needs of this growing population, rehabilitation programs can successfully meet the challenge at hand, providing patients with the highest quality of care while achieving greater performance standards.

In this guide we'll examine the three areas that drive the greatest impact on treating medically complex patients:

  1. Clinical staff
  2. Technology and Innovation
  3. Patient and family member experience

1. Getting Your Staff Prepared Clinically

Many rehabilitation programs make the mistake of trying to serve this new medically complex patient population with the same staffing model that they have used in the past. Unless staffing models are quickly optimized for the new population, outdated staffing models can lead to operational inefficiencies and subpar outcomes. This need is further highlighted by recent studies that have found the first three months after discharge from COVID-19 treatment are the most critical to recognize and address emerging problems such as loss of function, cognitive impairment, pain, depression and more.4 Positions that are particularly important for treating medically complex patients are:

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2. Adapting Through Technology and Innovation

Telehealth technology has rapidly increased since the beginning of COVID-19 with an overall increase of 155%

Having access to the latest innovative solutions has allowed providers to not only deliver vital care through equipment or devices, but connect patients and their families separated by distance -even more so now amid ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. For instance, the usage of telehealth technology has rapidly increased since the beginning of COVID-19, with baby boomers accounting for the greatest portion of new users. There has been an overall increase of 155% -jumping from 9% pre-pandemic to 23%.10

Additionally, the increased use of mobile video technology, messaging and image sharing of critical health information in a HIPAA-compliant manner have all become increasingly important as COVID-19 shifts the way care is provided and communication methods are challenged.

By embracing new technologies, rehabilitation programs and their patients can achieve greater levels of success while increasing patient satisfaction, both physically and mentally.

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3. Patient and Family Member Experience

In addition to clinical expertise, innovative technology and top-rated rehabilitation programming, support from hospital staff throughout a patient's care journey is just as critical for patient outcomes and family involvement.

The Importance of Follow-Up Calls to Improve Outcomes

Working follow-up calls into standard discharge procedure can produce optimal outcomes for both patients and rehabilitation programs, especially as methods of in-person communication are strained due to the ongoing pandemic. For instance, brain injury patients who receive follow-up calls are more likely to consistently take medication. They are also more likely to attend clinic visits, which correlates with reduced readmission risk.1

Follow-up calls give patients and their caregivers the opportunity to ask questions, resolve any misunderstandings and address any new concerns. Nurses are able to review medications and rehabilitation tasks, repeat instructions, advise on new problems and confirm future appointments.

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Learn how Kindred can help your rehab program adapt to the changing patient population.

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  2. C. Marras, J.C. Beck, et al. Prevalence of Parkinson’s disease across North America. npj Parkinson’s Disease. Jul 2018. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41531-018-0058-0
  3. Rita Rubin, M. (2020, October 13). As Their Numbers Grow, COVID-19 "Long Haulers" Stump Experts. Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/ fullarticle/2771111
  4. A. (2020, September 19). What Now for Rehabilitation Specialists? Coronavirus ... Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.archives-pmr.org/article/S0003-9993(20)30936-9/ fulltext 
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  9. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). https://www.samhsa.gov/data/ sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.pdf 
  10. How Covid-19 transformed virtual care preferences, according to our 7,000-patient survey. (2021, January 12). Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://www. advisory.com/Blog/2021/01/Covid-19-telehealth?utm_ source=member_db&utm_medium=email&utm_ campaign=2021jan19&utm_content=member_ trendingnow_final_blog_x_x_x&elq_cid=4329166&x_ id=0033b00002XWefKAAT 
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