• Article

Social support and actual versus expected length of stay in inpatient rehabilitation facilities

OBJECTIVES: To describe impairment-specific patterns in shorter- and longer-than-expected lengths of stay in inpatient rehabilitation, and examine the independent effects of social support on deviations from expected lengths of stay.

DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.

SETTING: Inpatient rehabilitation facilities.

PARTICIPANTS: Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries (N=119,437) who were discharged from inpatient rehabilitation facilities in 2012 after stroke, lower extremity fracture, or lower extremity joint replacement.

INTERVENTION: Not applicable.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Relative length of stay (actual minus expected). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services posts annual expected lengths of stay based on patients' clinical profiles at admission. We created a 3-category outcome variable: short, expected, long. Our primary independent variable (social support) also included 3 categories: family/friends, paid/other, none.

RESULTS: Mean ± SD actual lengths of stay for joint replacement, fracture, and stroke were 9.8±3.6, 13.8±4.5, and 15.8±7.3 days, respectively; relative lengths of stay were -1.2±3.1, -1.6±3.7, and -1.7±5.2 days. Nearly half of patients (47%-48%) were discharged more than 1 day earlier than expected in all 3 groups, whereas 14% of joint replacement, 15% of fracture, and 20% of stroke patients were discharged more than 1 day later than expected. In multinomial regression analysis, using family/friends as the reference group, paid/other support was associated (P<.05) with higher odds of long stays in joint replacement. No social support was associated with lower odds of short stays in all 3 impairment groups and higher odds of long stays in fracture and joint replacement.

CONCLUSIONS: Inpatient rehabilitation experiences and outcomes can be substantially affected by a patient's level of social support. More research is needed to better understand these relationships and possible unintended consequences in terms of patient access issues and provider-level quality measures.


Lewis, Z. H., Hay, C. C., Graham, J. E., Lin, Y-L., Karmarkar, A. M., & Ottenbacher, K. J. (2016). Social support and actual versus expected length of stay in inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 97(12), 2068-2075. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2016.06.005