Rehab Patients With Strong Social Support Are Likely To Spend Less Time As An Inpatient Than Those Who Don’t

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The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston did a recent study that showed that patience that have strong social support from friends and family spend less time in an inpatient rehabilitation facility than those that don’t. The study is currently available in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

According to the lead author Zakkoyya Lewis, a doctoral student in UTMB’s department of rehabilitation sciences, “When someone does not have the social support of family and friends, they take longer to return home to the community. We believe that support from loved ones may lead to better recovery and better quality of life.” She adds, “Our study is one of the first to look at how level of social support impacts how long patients need to spend in a rehab facility.”

Following certain injuries or surgeries such as a lower body joint replacement or fracture or when recovering following a stroke patients are often sent to an impatient rehabilitation facility (IRF) before returning home.

Medicare agrees to cover a certain number of days for the patients to keep staying in a rehabilitation facility under the current Medicare payment system, depending on the situation of the patient’s health. While still providing quality care, there is a financial incentive for facilities to release a patient earlier than his or her projected length of stay. However, there are some little information about variables such as patients’ home life or support system that impact expected lengths of stay which may affect discharge planning decisions and how well the patient does when they return home.

The researchers compared the amount of time that Medicare determined patients would actually need to spend in rehab with their actual length of stay for 119,439 Medicare beneficiaries who spent time in a rehabilitation facility in 2012 and they also analyzed social support based on information that the patients provided.

Compared to the patients who have low or no social support influences, the study showed that having a strong social support influences how long  patients stay in the rehab center.  Those with little social support were more likely to need extra time than predicted by Medicare.

“Our findings provide new information to the growing body of evidence that inpatient rehabilitation experiences can be substantially impacted by a patient’s level of social support,” said coauthor Catherine Cooper Hay, a doctoral student in UTMB’s department of rehabilitation sciences.

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