National projections suggest that hospitals may be overwhelmed with patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection in the coming months. Appropriately, much attention has addressed the acute challenges in caring for this surge of critically ill patients. What has received less attention, however, is what happens as patients—most of whom will recover, even in the highest-risk groups—begin to do so. Many patients with COVID-19 will need postacute care to recuperate from their infection. However, postacute care facilities currently lack the capacity and capability to safely treat patients with COVID-19 as they transition from the hospital to other care settings or to their homes. In this Viewpoint, we present the scope of the problem and outline a series of steps that may be helpful as postacute care organizations prepare for the coming increase in patients with COVID-19.
Postacute care includes rehabilitation or palliative services that beneficiaries receive following a stay in an acute care hospital. Depending on the patient’s needs, treatment may include a stay in a facility, such as a skilled nursing facility, inpatient rehabilitation facility, or long-term care hospital, or care in the home via a home health agency. Although data are limited regarding the proportion of patients with COVID-19 in other countries who have needed some form of postacute care, historical data from Medicare suggest that more than 30% of patients hospitalized with sepsis, a condition with inpatient mortality similar to that associated with COVID-19, require facility-based care and another 20% require home health care.