It Takes a Village: Nursing Home Clinical Specialty Programs Harness Hospital Partnerships and Internal Teams

Specialized clinical programs at nursing homes, tailored to specific patient populations, are gaining popularity. Their success and longevity depend on forging close partnerships with local hospitals to address gaps in care – a feature that is also expected to alleviate backlogs at hospitals. 

In creating strong clinical programs at SNFs, hospitals – can and do – provide invaluable insight into clinical metrics that are important to them, experts who spoke to Skilled Nursing News said. However, they urge starting out small, one facility at a time.

“We are really dependent on our business development teams who are in the local markets to be getting that feedback from the hospitals based on their data, what types of residents or patients that they’re seeing, what types of comorbidities they have, et cetera,” said Delena Stortz, chief nursing officer at Consulate Health Care. “And we are really focused right now on cardiology and respiratory programming in many of our markets,” she said.


Consulate has operations across Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana, and offers services ranging from comprehensive short-term rehabilitation and transitional care to Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

Meanwhile, Ignite Medical Resorts has long been talking up its strategy of clinical adaptability, positioning itself as a “chameleon” across different specialties.

Now, this approach has really taken off and involves identifying – with the help of hospitals – local health care trends through a range of specialty services, including respiratory, bariatric, cardiac, mental health, according to John McFarlane, Ignite’s chief clinical officer.


“We really do what our referring hospital partners need of us,” explained McFarlane. 

And being open with the hospital partner is key, he noted.

“We just try to be transparent with them and say, ‘Hey, what types of patient groups are you seeing and what are the negative trends among patients who are coming back to you, such as CHF [congestive heart failure] exacerbation.’”

The result of that partnership has meant that Ignite now has several clinical specialties on the premises of its facilities.

“We’ve set up a number of clinical programs with the input of our referring hospital physicians, our in-house physicians, our clinical informatics nurse, and our providers in the facilities,” McFarlane said.

Ignite is based in Park Ridge, Illinois, and has 20 facilities spread over seven states, including in Illinois and Texas.

Starting small

One principle these clinical experts strongly advocate is developing these programs with careful consideration, achievable only through a micro-level setup, which allows programs to address any issues early on before expanding.  

“We are starting small,” said Stortz, on Consulate’s strategy for implementing specialty programs. “We’re not trying to roll [our clinical programs] across 50 buildings. We are sticking to what the market needs and what it calls for, based on the data that the hospitals are sharing with us.”

Given that the implementation of a clinical program is difficult, McFarlane agrees with Stortz’ approach.

“Start with a single facility, determine what the highest need is for referring hospital partners for that facility, and just be transparent with the feedback with them,” McFarlane said.

The ‘business’ of clinical programs

And while clinical programs are serving a crucial need in rural pockets, they can be expensive endeavors, and hence, they need to be thoroughly evaluated for their business prospects.

“We rely heavily on our business development, our population health teams in our markets,” said Julie Britton, chief clinical officer at Genesis HealthCare.

Moreover, teams from across the clinical care spectrum participate in the early stages of planning of these programs at Genesis, she said.

“We have our director of nursing meetings around the clinical capabilities, and our business development, population health, our rehab partners, and our physician services partners. They are all part of those conversations,” Britton said. “They get to discuss what they’re passionate about and what they want to develop … because when it’s not driven by passion, it’s not going to work.”

And beyond the passion of clinical and business leaders, it’s about aligning clinical capabilities with the business objectives of each market and involving all areas of the nursing home, Britton noted.

“Engaging key stakeholders – from clinical and HR personnel to business development and environmental services – is essential to ensuring unified support and successful program implementation,” she said.

Genesis HealthCare subsidiaries include more than 200 skilled nursing centers and senior living communities in 19 states nationwide. Genesis also supplies rehabilitation therapy to more than 1,400 locations in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

In the end, the emphasis on local market insights, hospital feedback and involving the whole village, so to speak, bears the greatest chance of success of a specialty program.

“We’re trying to be good partners with those hospitals because it takes a whole

community to care for folks,” Stortz said.

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