Demand for post-acute care will skyrocket as COVID-19 patients recover, physicians warn

Once COVID-19 patient volumes finally fall in hospitals, healthcare leaders and officials will need to focus on a new challenge: ensuring there are enough post-acute beds and resources to aid in patients' recovery, two physicians wrote in a blog post in Health Affairs.

Vishal Arora, MD, and Jonathan Fried, MD, are current and incoming internal medicine residents at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital. Based on their estimates, at least 700,000 patients with COVID-19 will require inpatient short-stay rehabilitative care. Another 10 million patients may require other outpatient rehab services as part of their recovery.

"Our estimate would overwhelm our current capacity of approximately 345,000 available [skilled nursing facility] beds and double the current number of annual short-stay residents," the physicians wrote. "This also assumes that all SNFs would accept these patients, regardless of insurance status or geographic constraints, which is unrealistic."

They recommended three strategies to address the upcoming demand for post-acute care:

  • Expand home-based post-acute care offerings.
  • Train a new workforce to care for patients recovering from COVID-19.
  • Designate specialized SNFs or alternative care settings specifically for COVID-19 patients.

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