Finding the right post-acute care partner

Innovation

In the ever-evolving healthcare industry and the shift to value-based care, post-acute joint ventures and other forms of partnerships are becoming more prevalent; however, not all are created equal.

A successful joint venture requires a post-acute provider willing to take risks, offer innovative solutions to improve the quality of care and reduce hospital readmissions and the overall cost of care.

“A good joint venture partner can help you be more efficient with your core business,” said David Klementz, Chief Strategy and Development Officer for Encompass Health, a national provider of post-acute care. “You want someone who can help improve quality of care and has the systems and tools in place to support better clinical outcomes for patients.”

Though post-acute joint ventures have become more common since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, partnerships are nothing new to Encompass Health. 

Encompass Health has been forming inpatient rehabilitation joint ventures in various forms with acute care providers for nearly 30 years. Its first joint venture dates back to 1991 and is still going strong.  Encompass Health has more than 45 joint ventures with a variety of acute care providers, including religious, academic and non-profit systems.

When contemplating a joint venture with an inpatient rehabilitation facility, there are several factors to take into account. Klementz, who joined Encompass Health in 2005, said to consider the following when forming a post-acute partnership: 

Scale and experience matter

Joint ventures can be complicated and often take time to finalize, but an experienced post-acute provider with a history of success can help you address the burdens and unknowns.

A large, experienced post-acute provider can adapt and respond to change quickly. That’s what we did at Encompass Health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Early on, we formed a task force to develop and implement best practices throughout our hospitals.

We were also able to help our partners in acute care by treating patients recovering from severe reactions to the virus. This not only freed up space in the acute care hospital, but it also proved to be the ideal setting for these patients, who needed both a hospital level of care and rehabilitation to help them regain their independence and pre-COVID-19 lives.

Our scale allows us to identify and implement best practices in all our hospitals in order to respond and adapt to the unknown, which is what we have done throughout this pandemic.

Make sure your post-acute provider understands your needs

Is your average length of stay consistent with best practices in the industry and standards of care? Are hospital readmissions keeping you up at night? The right joint venture provider should offer solutions to these issues as well as continuous collaboration into improving the issues you face. Encompass Health joint ventures succeed because we collaborate with our acute care partners to assure we meet their needs.

Nearly a decade ago we invested more than $200 million—and that was with zero HITECH dollars—to build an electronic health record (EHR) system specific to post-acute care. With that robust system in place in all our hospitals, we are now building predictive models and post-acute solutions to improve quality outcomes and reduce costs. 

The first of those solutions utilizes a predictive algorithm for assessing the risk of an acute care transfer when a patient is at one of our hospitals. The algorithm works within our EHR to flag high-risk patients so clinical protocols can be implemented to help prevent a transfer from occurring.

Encompass Health recently rolled out a new model, the Readmission Prevention Program, to reduce the risk of a readmission after a patient leaves one of our hospitals. We know a readmission can be costly and can impact quality metrics. It also sets a patient back in their recovery. This program uses a predictive algorithm developed using patient records from both our inpatient rehabilitation and home health EHRs to identify those at highest risk, and puts in place protocols to reduce that risk after the patient discharges from our hospital.

Make sure your post-acute provider is financially healthy

It sounds obvious enough, but the financial health of your post-acute partner is crucial to the success of the partnership. Encompass Health was recently recognized by Modern Healthcare as the fourth-largest post-acute provider by net revenue. A healthy balance sheet provides multiple options for each post-acute partnership with respect to structure and location.

In the end

You want a partner that will provide high quality post-acute care, collaborate on patient care to improve outcomes and reduce the overall cost of care so that you can focus on your core business.