Is More Always Better? Financially Motivated Therapy and Patient Outcomes in Skilled Nursing Facilities

  • Abstract

    Objective: To determine if financially motivated therapy in Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) is associated with patient outcomes.

    Design: Cohort study using 2018 Medicare administrative data.

    Setting and participants: 13,949 SNFs in the United States.

    Participants: 934,677 Medicare Part A patients admitted to SNF for post-acute rehabilitation (N=934,677).

    Interventions: The primary independent variable was an indicator of financially motivated therapy, separate from intensive therapy, known as thresholding, defined as when SNFs provide 10 or fewer minutes of therapy above weekly reimbursement thresholds.

    Main outcome measures: Dichotomous indicators of successful discharge to the community vs institution and functional improvement on measures of transfers, ambulation, or locomotion. Mixed effects models estimated relations between thresholding and community discharge and functional improvement, adjusted for therapy intensity, patient, and facility characteristics. Sensitivity analyses estimated associations between thresholding and outcomes when patients were stratified by therapy volume.

    Results: Thresholding was associated with a small positive effect on functional improvement (odds ratio 1.07; 95% CI 1.06-1.09) and community discharge (odds ratio 1.03, 95% CI 1.02-1.05). Effect sizes for functional improvement were consistent across patients receiving different volumes of therapy. However, effect sizes for community discharge were largest for patients in low-volume therapy groups (odds ratio 1.27, 95% CI 1.18-1.35).

    Conclusions: Patients who experienced thresholding during post-acute SNF stays were slightly more likely to improve in function and successfully discharge to the community, especially for patients receiving lower volumes of therapy. While thresholding is an inefficient and financially motivated practice, results suggest that even small amounts of extra therapy time may have contributed positively to outcomes for patients receiving lower-volume therapy. As therapy volumes decline in SNFs, these results emphasize the importance of Medicare payment policy designed to promote, not disincentivize, potentially beneficial rehabilitation services for patients.

    Keywords: Functional status; Health policy; Medicare; Nursing homes; Patient discharge; Rehabilitation.

  • Authors:

    Prusynski RA, Frogner BK, Rundell SD, Pradhan S, Mroz TM

  • Journal/Publisher:

    Arch Phys Med Rehabil

  • Edition:

    Aug 2023. S0003-9993(23)00428-8

  • Funder:

    American Physical Therapy Association Academy of Leadership & Innovation Research Grant, Foundation for Physical Therapy Research (Promotion of Doctoral Studies II Scholarship), and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (Award Number TL1 TR002318)

  • Link to Article

    Access the article here: Arch Phys Med Rehabil

  • Citation:

    Prusynski RA, Frogner BK, Rundell SD, Pradhan S, Mroz TM. Is more always better? Financially motivated therapy and patient outcomes in skilled nursing facilities. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2023 Aug 3:S0003-9993(23)00428-8. DOI:10.1016/j.apmr.2023.07/014