What a 21st Century skilled nursing facility should really look like

A traditionalist mindset can be dangerous in the healthcare field, and skilled nursing facilities have often been prone to operating “as usual” rather than pursuing a more effective and efficient future. 

Out with the old, in with the new. 

In the 21st century, it’s important for skilled nursing facilities to prioritize advancement and evolution for the sake of their patients, employees, and for their own organizational resilience.

There are several different ways skilled nursing facilities can make adjustments in order to better suit the needs and demands of the modern era, including utilizing data and becoming more multifaceted. By making these changes, SNFs can improve their services, expand their offerings, and adapt to the evolving needs of their residents to promote a more effective and sustainable model. 

This list is not exhaustive, nor is it conclusive. There is a lot that SNFs must do to elevate their facilities, and these initiatives must also be ongoing to keep up with the ever-changing healthcare landscape. Even so, below are a few things that skilled nursing facilities can do now to become more modernized.

Adopting Alternative Payment Methods
Financial concerns are common among long-term care patients, as costs can add up over time and cause unnecessary amounts of stress. Adopting alternative payment methods can help reduce the financial stress put on patients and their families, but it also works to make long-term care centers more accessible to vulnerable populations.

Already, the federal government has made an effort to incentivize lower costs and improve care, and Medicare Advantage has granted providers the autonomy to negotiate with insurance companies to adjust expectations. These initiatives are only the beginning; skilled nursing facilities must demonstrate their value, attract patients who might otherwise pursue at-home care, and make a consistent effort to improve the quality of care they provide without hiking up healthcare costs. Communicating and negotiating with insurance providers, as well as participating in available government programs, will aid in this initiative.

Additionally, alternative payment models are the only way to truly put patients at the center of healthcare, where they have long been missing for so long. Patient-centered facilities provide care as it pertains to individual patient needs and values; it ensures that patients and their families help guide all clinical decisions. This is what the future of healthcare must look like.

Becoming More Multifaceted
If skilled nursing facilities want to attract more residents and suit the needs of today’s patients, they will need to become more multifaceted. What this means is that skilled nursing facilities must look into ways they can provide different services to meet the needs of their patients.

Rather than relying on outpatient services, for example, SNFs might seek ways they can provide on-site primary care, specialized clinical programs, and transitional programs. The traditional practice of sending long-term care patients to external providers no longer suits the needs or values of residents. Skilled nursing facilities can appeal to modern patients and their families by providing more services in-house and reducing the need for travel and external expenses. This will help residents and their families feel more at ease knowing that their facility can provide for their complete health rather than just general healthcare and everyday life support.

One of the most difficult parts of this process will be mitigating costs while increasing the value of skilled nursing facilities. Many facilities experience some difficulty in appropriately allocating their budgets due to low funding, but a financial audit, as well as renewed efforts to optimize spending, could help reveal some areas in which these facilities can be more frugal and deliberate.

Providing specialized services in-house instead of sending patients to external providers could ultimately reduce costs, save time, and improve inpatient care and satisfaction.

Managing More Complex Patient Populations
This is one of the most critical initiatives to be prioritized. Understanding the complexities of patient needs and health is imperative in the 21st century, and skilled nursing facilities must make a concentrated effort to account for unique patient needs, especially for patients with multiple health conditions or special needs. Many patients have multiple or overlapping diagnoses, so long-term care centers must prioritize caring for all patient needs.

In order to accomplish this task, skilled nursing facilities need to implement a handful of internal changes. These include: adopting appropriate technology to facilitate activity integration and data management, providing sufficient education for staff members to understand how to effectively utilize the new tech, communicating more consistently with patients’ primary care providers and specialists, and strengthening facility care management capabilities.

Using Data and Data Resources Strategically
A 21st-century skilled nursing facility must embrace technology and data to improve everything from their services to their marketing initiatives. Gaining insight into the facility’s strengths and challenges can provide a clear path toward improvement, but before reaching that point, facilities must implement an efficient means of collecting and analyzing data.

Data-driven operations in skilled nursing facilities can have a profound impact on effectiveness, efficiency, and improved patient outcomes. By identifying what is working and what isn’t, staff members can make appropriate changes as needed to improve overall efficiency and reduce stress and wastefulness. By improving efficiency, skilled nursing facilities can also reduce costs by further optimizing how they spend their money and use their resources.

Embracing data analysis and technology in skilled nursing facilities can also help protect these facilities when it comes to audits, assessments, and takebacks. Accuracy in records is critical, not only for external parties who want to know more about the practice, but also for internal affairs in terms of historical references and documentation of past tactics, treatments, or strategies.

The modern era demands change, and skilled nursing facilities must rise to the occasion. The future of healthcare is about ushering in changes that will benefit diverse and vulnerable patient populations. Making the appropriate organizational adjustments, adopting new and advancing technologies, and drawing on data are all ways that skilled nursing facilities can become better suited for the 21st century and the residents that will benefit from advanced care.

Photo: ipopba, Getty Images

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