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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Post-acute referral patterns for hospitals and implications for bundled payment initiatives



Under new bundled payment models, hospitals are financially responsible for post-acute care delivered by providers such as skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and home health agencies (HHAs). The hope is that hospitals will use post-acute care more prudently and better coordinate care with post-acute providers. However, little is known about existing patterns in hospitals׳ referrals to post-acute providers.


Post-acute provider referrals were identified using SNF and HHA claims within 14 days following hospital discharge. Hospital post-acute care network size and concentration were estimated across hospital types and regions. The 2008 Medicare Provider Analysis and Review claims for acute hospitals and SNFs, and the 100% HHA Standard Analytic Files were used.


The mean post-acute care network size for U.S. hospitals included 57.9 providers with 37.5 SNFs and 23.4 HHAs. The majority of these providers (65.7% of SNFs, 60.9% of HHAs) accounted for 1 percent or less of a hospital׳s referrals and classified as “low-volume”. Other post-acute providers we classified as routine. The mean network size for routine providers was greater for larger hospitals, teaching hospitals and in regions with higher per capita post-acute care spending.


The average hospital works with over 50 different post-acute providers. Moreover, the size of post-acute care networks varies considerably geographically and by hospital characteristics. These results provide context on the complex task hospitals will face in coordinating care with post-acute providers and cutting costs under new bundled payment models.

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