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More therapy leads to slightly better outcomes, study finds

January 5, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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More therapy hours in SNFs appear to improve outcomes, except for those with the greatest need.

Researchers found seniors recovering from hip fractures were 3 percent more likely to be sent home from skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) if they received an additional hour of therapy per week.

Increased therapy hasn’t been proven to improve patient outcomes though SNFs have increasingly been providing more therapy hours to Medicare beneficiaries.

 "Policymakers are seeking to reduce expenditures for these services, which may lead to less therapy provided to patients and poorer outcomes," says lead author Hye-Young Jung, PhD, assistant professor of healthcare policy and research in the Division of Healthcare Policy and Economics at Weill Cornell Medicine in a university-issued news release. "My study is basically saying, 'Let's actually look at the therapy minutes and see if patients benefit from more therapy.'"

Jung's findings, published in the journal "Physical Therapy," could affect the cost related to SNFs, which in 2012 received $26.2 billion from Medicare, up from $19.5 billion in 2006. Post-acute care is the largest driver of regional variation in healthcare costs nationally, according to a 2013 report by the Institute of Medicine.

Jung's study was based on data of more than 480,000 Medicare beneficiaries nationwide admitted to SNFs after hip fracture between 2000 and 2009.

Access the study here.

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