How to Choose a Rehabilitation Center

Story by Annette Brooks

Most of us know what hospital we’d go to if we become sick or injured, but have you considered what you would do if you require recovery and rehabilitation after a hospital stay? You may need a higher level of care before you’re ready to head home after surgery or being treated for a critical illness, brain injury, stroke or heart attack, fractures, and other injuries and conditions. Inpatient rehabilitation hospitals offer the next step in care, providing a bridge between hospital and home with specialized medical care and therapy to help you get stronger, maintain function, and regain abilities you may have lost.

It may seem like choosing a rehabilitation hospital would be straightforward, but several factors should be considered.

Start by identifying the scope of services offered. What types of conditions do their programs address, such as cancer, stroke, or orthopedic trauma? Are both inpatient and outpatient services available? Sometimes patients discharged from a rehabilitation hospital require ongoing outpatient care. Amputation, spinal cord injury, stroke, cardiac recovery, organ transplantation, and more can require longer-term therapy on an outpatient basis so you can continue to progress and rebuild your life.

Since rehabilitation programs and approaches differ from hospital to hospital, ask how they develop their treatment plans. Chances are, you’ll be told they are customized to the patient, which is good but don’t just settle for this answer. Ask them to provide a couple of HIPAA-compliant examples or create a scenario based on an experience and listen to what they say.

Following the idea not to assume anything, check how often they provide therapy, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and ask about the average duration per session. Rehab hospitals typically provide therapy three hours a day over five days or 15 hours over seven days. Next, check into the training and availability of staff. Is a board-certified or board-eligible doctor on-site or on-call 24/7? Are the nurses certified in rehabilitation nursing? Are other staff members trained and experienced in acute care?

Last but not least, ask about accreditations and designations that signify excellence. Several can apply to rehabilitation hospitals, from specific to general. For example, accreditation by The Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) indicates a rehabilitation hospital meets the highest quality standards and is committed to continuous improvement in care delivery, program development, and serving community needs. CARF accreditation can apply to general rehabilitation, as well as specific inpatient and outpatient programs.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, stop by each rehabilitation hospital, and get to know them before you need them. Does the facility appear clean and well-kept? Does the staff seem friendly and helpful?

Doing some homework upfront before you or a loved one needs a rehabilitation hospital’s services is being a smart healthcare consumer. When your must-have and many of your “nice to have” boxes are checked off, then you’ve found your rehabilitation hospital of choice should the need arise.

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