When most people think about getting critical health care services, they think of hospitals. Not so long ago, a person stayed at a hospital as long as he or she needed for recovery. However, there has been a fundamental shift in the modern health care paradigm.
Today, traditional hospitals are geared to deliver short-term critical care. Their primary goal is to stabilize patients in a step toward recovery and then discharge them.
When patients are well enough to be discharged from a traditional hospital but not well enough to care for themselves, post-acute care fills the void. Post-acute care continues the appropriate care in a long-term care facility, rehabilitation centers, or with home care.
About 3.2 million hospital patients each year require post-acute care, according to the American Health Care Association. For a majority of patients, post-acute care is provided only until the patient is well enough to go home— typically about one to three months. However, some patients – roughly 5 percent of the adult population— require some sort of post-acute care for the remainder of their lives.
Long-term acute care hospitals (LTACs) are designed to deliver specialized care to patients who are critically or chronically ill and require the extended recovery time that short-term acute care hospitals may not be equipped to provide. Several independent and government-sponsored studies have reported that LTAC hospitals treat the sickest patients. The LTAC’s primary mission is to reduce patient trauma, cost and the risk of needing to be re-admitted to a traditional acute care hospital.
As with any hospital, LTAC hospitals have attending physicians and specialized teams available to serve patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Generally speaking, as in a traditional hospital setting, LTAC hospitals have specialized and integrated units within the facility to deal with patients requiring extended or less intense care.