If you’re a newcomer to the industry, the rehab therapy space can be a little confusing. There are a variety of settings, care modalities, and industry terms to wrap your head around. Even seasoned rehab therapists have a hard time keeping it all straight.
Of the various rehab therapy spaces, two of the most commonly confused are acute care therapy and inpatient therapy, more commonly referred to as inpatient rehab.
In this blog post, we will discuss what the two have in common and where they differ.
What acute care therapy and inpatient rehab have in common
Both types of rehab therapy help people recover from injury or illness. They use physical, occupational, and speech therapies to assist patients in regaining their independence. Mental health services may also be integrated, as needed, during time of care.
In addition, both acute care therapy and inpatient therapy can be provided either on an individual basis or as part of group sessions.
How acute care therapy and inpatient rehab differ
For starters, it is important to understanding that “inpatient” refers to simply staying in a hospital, care facility, or in some situations, in a skilled nursing facility (SNF). For this reason, technically, acute care therapy and inpatient rehab are both considered “inpatient” care.
The distinguishable differences are in the nuances. Acute care therapy and inpatient rehab use a different timeline for recovery due to varying treatment requirements, often depending on the severity of the injury, illness, or recovery time required. When a patient has discharged from an acute care setting, but they need continued rehab, they may then move to inpatient rehab.
Because of the differences in injury severity, they can also require varying levels of professional strategy to deliver outcomes. The treatment team sizes, for example, can be very different between acute therapy and inpatient rehab.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between acute care therapy and inpatient rehab.
What is acute care therapy?
An acute condition is one that doesn’t require extended hospitalization. Therefore, acute care therapy, which is specifically designed to treat acute conditions, is typically shorter than inpatient rehabilitation. Acute care therapy is often provided for those who need short-term assistance recovering from surgery.
The goal of acute care therapy is still to provide the patient with the skills they need to function independently once they leave the hospital. This usually includes redeveloping essential skills such as lifting an arm or walking.
Because acute care therapy is about rehabbing essential skills and motor functions, treatment occurs daily or multiple times a day. Once patients regain function, they are typically discharged, either to another rehab setting or home.
It’s important to note in the distinction that with acute care therapy, it’s part of full care treatment. For instance, a patient may have had shoulder surgery and acute care therapy is just one part of their care. However, with inpatient rehab, patients are there specifically for rehab therapy.
What is inpatient therapy/inpatient rehab?
One way physicians may provide inpatient rehab is through an IRF (inpatient rehabilitation facility). Separate from the hospital at which they would have been discharged, IRFs offer intense rehab programs and therapy for those who have experience a severe illness or debilitating injury. Those suffering from stroke, joint replacements, or brain injuries often find IRFs a good fit, since the goal is to provide a full suite of medical and personal services while focusing intently on a carefully prescribed rehab regimen. The ultimate outcome is for the patient to be able to return home at some point after their therapy.
Inpatient rehabilitation usually lasts for weeks to months. It’s administered either through partial hospitalization (PH) or residential (RR), depending on the patient’s needs. The length of inpatient rehabilitation stays depend on the severity of the condition and how quickly the patient is expected to progress with recovery. Inpatient therapy is often used for conditions that will benefit from an intensive period of therapy, such as a spinal cord injury or stroke.
The goal is of inpatient therapy is to help patients gain independence by teaching them how to manage their condition at home or in a community setting. This kind of physical rehabilitation is focused on improving strength and function to increase mobility, so that once discharged home, patients will be able to continue making progress safely.
Because of these goals, therapists spend significant time with patients in inpatient therapy. Therapy sessions occur daily and can range from an hour to several hours at a time.
Different tools and systems
Because of the unique nature of the acute therapy environment and its individual operational demands separate from those in inpatient therapy, hospitals and care networks often use specialized software platforms, such as Net Health Therapy, within acute therapy departments. These electronic health record (EHR) systems help streamline tasks like patient documentation, treatment plans, staff scheduling, patient visits, and billing.
For inpatient therapy, many hospitals use institution-wide EHR systems that are more general and are used across several departments.
What does each form of care look like for patients?
Inpatient rehab requires preadmission in most cases, and once there, patients will be assigned a care team to tend to all their health and wellness needs. This often includes more than just the rehabilitation activities; wound care, medication, occupational, speech, and mental wellness professionals will all have a role in making sure the patient returns as close to their whole self as possible.
Inpatient rehab requires a careful coordination of many skilled professionals, so forming a plan for care may take time. Once accepted and implemented, however, inpatient rehab can provide a minimum of three hours a day to a patient, as well as giving the access to the recreational and personal development activities that are appropriate for this point in their recuperation.
There have been many advancements in how inpatient rehab is delivered, and patients can expect to see even more specialized professionals involved in their recovery than in the years’ past. From meals to meds to movement, recovery via an inpatient setting is a significant commitment but one that can create incredible outcomes for patients who follow through.
Acute rehab, on the other hand, will likely rely on the healthcare professionals already tending to the patient at the hospital and a few therapy experts connected to the facility. While numerous individuals will continue to follow up with rehab efforts after discharge, the nature of acute rehab is that it isn’t designed to last long. Whether it’s for a few weeks or months, patients prescribed with acute rehab are usually expected to make a significant recovery in far less time than those patients recommended for inpatient rehab.
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