3 predictions for the future of post-acute care

Robust in-home care, advances in technology and seamless access to nursing facilities are some of the ways leaders anticipate post-acute care may change in the next 50 years.

Here, three leaders give their predictions and hopes for the industry in the future:

Vicki Good, DNP, RN. Chief Clinical Officer of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses: The first ICUs were established just over 50 years ago, and it's exciting to think about what the future holds for the entire patient care continuum. Over the next 50 years, post-acute care will move to be mostly provided in a non-hospital setting, with lower acuity patients being cared for at home. More and more hospital beds will be devoted to higher acuity patients. These changes will impact the way patient care is delivered in several ways.  

  • There will be a need to create robust in-home care resources to support patients and families.
  • The demand for nurses to meet the needs of patients at home, such as home visits, virtual support, etc., will continue to rise.
  • Hospitals will focus on delivering progressive and critical care that cannot be provided at home.

To prepare for the next 50 years, workforce development is key. Healthcare must create professional development tracks that are inclusive/equitable to continue to recruit a diverse workforce. Introducing the next generation of clinicians to the growing variety of opportunities and career paths in healthcare needs to begin when they are children, not young adults. Strategies to diversify the workforce to meet the needs of our patients and better reflect the communities we serve must include making higher education more affordable and accessible.

Grace La Torre, DO. Director of Palliative Care Service at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University Hospital: A shift in the focus of healthcare toward helping patients stay at home is key to supporting our patients and improving their quality of care, including investments in telehealth care, home health agencies, quality skilled nursing facilities, caregivers and inter-facility communication and transitions of care. I remain optimistic that in 50 years the investments in our nation's healthcare system and related entities will be shifted toward post-acute care. A time when medical care can be provided at home for ALL the seriously ill, not just via telehealth care but also in person, including for routine and subacute care. I foresee seamless accessibility to skilled nursing facilities, including long-term care as an inherited benefit for patients whose needs are too complex or burdensome to be addressed at home or when caregivers cannot safely provide the care needed. For those patients who can return home, their family or caregiver can be provided adequate support to care for them, and offered financial support if they need to step away from their jobs to become full-time caregivers and/or have access to home healthcare aids. I anticipate a more robust hospice benefit that can truly meet the individual needs of each patient as well as investment in the growth of more hospice agencies to address accessibility. Lastly, the creation of a central or global pathway for "in real time" communication and updates between post-acute care facilities and providers to deliver appropriate and effective patient care. 

Natalya Kusheleva. Associate Executive Director of Hospital Operations at Northwell Health Staten Island University Hospital (New York City): Something I would like to see is technological advancements we keep hearing about gaining popularity and bearing in the market. For example, robotic technology for assisting patients with daily living, smart appliances, voice activated AR assistants and more. I think this is where we're going to go, a place where patients would have as much independence as possible. With technologies at home, helping to rehabilitate patients and lift that level of activity of daily living to a different level without being dependent on anyone else could be possible.

I also think biotechnologies in regenerative medicine will play a big role in post-acute care. We are patient centric and moving towards it, but technology advances would put the patient at the forefront of a customized post-acute care that would decide the end combined with the analytics which we already have in healthcare. 

While the major trend I would see is shifting to the home environment, there is still a role for more intense therapies in a post-acute care setting. 

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