Investing in Specialized Care Will Drive Skilled Nursing Occupancy in 2019

Adding specialized services could be a daunting task for skilled nursing providers coming off of a year of occupancy rate freefall, at least for most of 2018. But as they prepare for the new Medicare reimbursement system, the role of specialization in driving occupancy will only grow.

That’s according to a webinar hosted Wednesday by Skilled Nursing News and presented by Cantata Health, a financial and electronic health records software provider for both the acute and long-term care sectors.

The challenges of SNF specialization include staffing headaches and razor-thin margins, but there are ways providers can make those investments, senior clinical consultant LeRoy Boan said on the webinar.

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“Facilities will want to take a look at their current resident population and then take a look at their neighboring SNFs and see what they’re doing,” he explained. “Then look at staff and services that you might be able to provide outside the current realm of services you do now.”

Some SNFs have already begun to take these steps. Rural SNFs in particular might need to come up with other uses for beds and space, such as leasing out units or expanding their continuum of care. Other SNFs have started to add assisted living and behavioral health services; one facility in New York began offering services that run the gamut from independent living to home care.

But before providers rush headlong into a new sector, they need to take a hard look in the mirror, Boan said in the webinar.

“There’s creative ways to expand your services without a high cost, but you are going to have to do a study,” he said. “You’re going to have to do some analytics. You’re going to have to put pen to paper and figure out the pros and the cons.”

That starts by doing a study of not just the current resident population, but also of the community. Smaller, mom-and-pop SNF providers are expected by many in the industry to head for the exits rather than deal with the headaches of the Patient-Driven Payment Model that takes effect on Oct. 1, but if they want to stay in the game, they should find out what their communities need — whether that’s dementia or adult day care — and offer it, Boan said.

“It depends on the needs of the community and the current resident population,” he said. “If we want to be successful, where can we specialize at low or no cost? What does the community need that we could provide simply without putting in large capital investments? What are our sister facilities doing in the neighborhood? Have they expanded their services?”

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