OBJECTIVE: To identify the challenges that reductions in length of stay (LOS) pose for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and their postacute care (PAC) patients.
DATA SOURCES/SETTING: Seventy interviews with staff in 25 SNFs in eight U.S. cities, LOS data for patients in those SNFs.
STUDY DESIGN: Data were qualitatively analyzed, and key themes were identified. Interview data from SNFs with and without reductions in median risk-adjusted LOS were compared and contrasted.
DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS: We conducted 70 semistructured interviews. LOS data were derived from minimum dataset (MDS) admission records available for all patients in all U.S. SNFs from 2012 to 2014.
PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Challenges reported regardless of reductions in LOS included frequent and more complicated re-authorization processes, patients becoming responsible for costs, and discharging patients whom staff felt were unsafe at home. Challenges related to reduced LOS included SNFs being pressured to discharge patients within certain time limits. Some SNFs reported instituting programs and processes for following up with patients after discharge. These programs helped alleviate concerns about patients, but they resulted in nonreimbursable costs for facilities.
CONCLUSIONS: The push for shorter LOS has resulted in unexpected challenges and costs for SNFs and possible unintended consequences for PAC patients.