You or one of your family members are in the hospital following an injury, illness or surgery and the physician or surgeon says it’s time to leave the hospital but rehabilitation or additional care is needed before going home.

Some conditions that may require short- or long-term care at a rehabilitation facility include stroke; disabling diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis; brain and spinal cord injuries; orthopedic injuries or surgery; amputation; ventilator and breathing support; post-surgery recovery; acute illness and infection; and general wound care.  

Depending on resources, facility options and the extent and length of rehabilitation and care needed, before returning home many people will go to a long-term or short-term rehabilitation hospital, skilled nursing facility or assisted living facility that provides physical rehabilitation and therapy care.

Staff at these specialized care centers may include nurses; physical, occupational and speech therapists; social workers; dietitians; a physician medical director; and other specialized medical staff as needed. 

What's the difference between a hospital, acute (short-term) rehabilitation hospital, long-term rehabilitation hospital and a skilled nursing facility?

The differences have to do with the level of care provided, the length of care needed and the type of injury, illness or diagnosis of the patient. Here is some information on each type of care facility listed above:  

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Acute-Care Hospitals, like Flagstaff Medical Center, provide constant, short-term treatment for a severe injury, an episode of illness or urgent medical condition. The patient is under the direct care of a physician. Most acute-care hospitals perform surgery and therefore provide short-term (days) post-surgery care. In medical terms, care for acute health conditions is the opposite of long-term care or care for chronic (ongoing) conditions. Length of stay is typically days but may be longer depending on patient needs. 

Short-Term Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospitals, like the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona, can help speed the recovery process. Short-term rehabilitation focuses on rebuilding strength, retraining muscles, regaining speech and rewiring the brain. Medical care and physical, occupational and speech therapy can be part of the individualized treatment plans. Most patients participate in a minimum of two to four hours of physical and occupational therapy a day. Medicare reports the average length of stay is 12 days.  

Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) provides both short-term and long-term care for those who have an illness or injury who require daily medical care, help with routine tasks, supervision and assistance. When around-the-clock care is required, a SNF may be the best option. Traditionally, the patient’s care is overseen by a physician, but a physician does not see the patient on a daily basis, as is the case in a hospital. SNFs provide physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as nursing care. Medicare reports the average length of stay is 41 days.  

Richard Holt, D.O., is the medical director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona. Dr. Holt specializes in helping patients recover from injury or disease and live the highest quality of life possible. 

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Is there a health topic you would like to know more about? Contact Starla S. Collins, health writer, life & success coach and public relations expert, at StarlaSCollins@gmail.com.


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