Four Challenges Faced by Long-Term Care Facilities in 2024

Our current time presents unique challenges and opportunities for SNFs, CCRCs, and other long-term care facilities in the United States. On one hand, the industry faces a surging demand for services driven by the aging population. A 2023 report by the Population Reference Bureau projects that the number of Americans aged 65 and older will balloon to over 80 million by 2030, a significant increase from the current 57 million. This translates to a growing need for skilled nursing care, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care options.

On the other hand, facilities and communities grapple with a multitude of challenges that threaten their stability and quality of care. Staffing shortages, financial constraints, and evolving resident needs all contribute to a complex landscape that demands innovative solutions. Today, we will explore these key challenges and how partnering with a contract therapy provider like TMC can empower facilities to navigate this critical time in long-term care.

Challenge #1: The Workforce Crisis

Staffing shortages have long plagued the LTC industry, but the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem. Burnout, low wages, and demanding workloads led to an exodus of personnel. In an interview with Skilled Nursing News, Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA/NCAL said that staffing is one of the greatest challenges in health care, and that bad policy isn’t helping. “In fact, it threatens to close centers and reduce access to care for hundreds of thousands of Americans,” explained Parkinson.

The potential consequences of understaffing are dire. Reduced staffing ratios compromise resident care, leading to higher rates of infections, falls, and hospital readmissions. Furthermore, overworked staff experience increased stress and decreased job satisfaction, contributing to a vicious cycle.

Solution: How TMC Can Help Meet Staffing Needs

TMC offers a comprehensive solution to the staffing crisis. As a contract therapy provider, TMC handles all hiring of qualified physical, occupational, and speech-language therapists, freeing up facility staff to focus on other crucial tasks. However, TMC goes beyond just therapy. We also offer nurse and staff recruiting assistance, a unique service that has helped facilities hire hundreds of positions beyond just therapy. This holistic approach can significantly alleviate the overall staffing burden in various settings.

Challenge #2: Financial Pressures and Medicaid Shortfalls

SNFs and other facilities operate on tight margins, and the pandemic further strained their financial viability. Medicare reimbursement rates often fall short of the actual cost of care, leaving a gap that must be filled by Medicaid or private pay. Medicaid funding, however, is often inadequate and subject to complex regulations.

Additionally, the Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM), implemented in 2019, ushered in a new era of reimbursement for long-term care facilities. The switch to PDPM in long-term care upended reimbursement for some facilities, and the effects are still felt in 2024. While overall funding increased, it wasn’t evenly distributed. Facilities caring for complex residents may have benefited, but those with less-acute populations might have seen a decrease. This financial disparity arose because PDPM prioritizes individual patient needs over therapy volume (minutes per day), a shift that some facilities still haven’t interacted with. What’s more, the need to adapt to PDPM’s new coding system added another layer of complexity, impacting finances.

Solution: How TMC Therapy Can Help Close the Gap

TMC understands the financial pressures facing facilities today. By partnering with TMC for therapy services, facilities can potentially improve their efficiency without compromising on quality of care. TMC therapists are highly qualified and experienced, ensuring efficient treatment.

Furthermore, TMC offers valuable support with navigating the complexities of Medicaid billing and ensuring proper documentation for reimbursement. Our MDS Coding department can significantly improve a facility’s reimbursement challenges. TMC’s MDS specialists make recommendations, offer training, and provide other support that helps your coding department drastically increase revenue while more accurately billing MDS, potentially leading to an increase of over $30 per patient, per day.

Challenge #3: The Changing Needs of Residents

The population entering long-term care today is demonstrably different from previous generations. They are often living longer and entering care with more complex medical conditions. Residents may require a wider range of therapies, including cognitive rehabilitation, cardiac rehabilitation, and specialized wound care. This evolving landscape demands a highly skilled and adaptable team of clinicians.

Solution: Improved Outcomes With “Mindful Care”

At TMC, we pride ourselves on our diverse pool of highly skilled therapists. We employ a “Mindful Care” approach, which considers cognitive ability when choosing the appropriate programs, protocols, and pathways to follow with each individual resident. This ensures that each resident receives the most effective therapy services to meet their specific needs and goals, and has resulted in significantly improved outcomes.

Challenge #4: The Rise of Telehealth and Technology

Technology is rapidly transforming the healthcare landscape, and facilities are presented with both opportunities and challenges in this domain. Telehealth, for instance, allows for remote consultations with physicians and therapists, potentially improving access to care for residents with limited mobility. Technology can also be used to implement remote monitoring systems, allowing for earlier detection of health issues.

However, integrating new technologies requires investment in equipment and staff training. Additionally, concerns exist regarding the digital divide and ensuring equitable access to technology for all residents.

Solution: TMC’s Culture of Innovation

At TMC, one of our core values in innovation. We utilize a proprietary therapy software called Ignite that is unique in the industry. What sets Ignite apart from standard programs is the ability to modify and customize the program as needed. This allows TMC to rapidly keep up with industry changes, customer demands, and improved practice patterns. Additionally, Ignite can provide a full suite of outcomes reporting for specific DRGs including LOS, functional gains, re-hospitalization rates, and discharge patterns. This data empowers LTCF administration to identify opportunities for improvement and mitigate potential risks.

For Every Challenge, a Solution

We have all seen the struggles. Staffing shortages, financial constraints, evolving resident needs, and the integration of technology are just some of the challenges demanding innovative solutions. Partnering with a reputable contract therapy provider like TMC can be a strategic step towards addressing these critical issues. TMC offers a comprehensive approach that includes staffing solutions beyond therapy, financial expertise with maximized reimbursement, a “mindful care” approach for resident therapy, and cutting-edge technology to optimize care delivery. Ultimately, by embracing these solutions, facilities can empower their staff and deliver the highest quality of care to their growing resident population.