Rehabilitation intensity and patient outcomes in skilled nursing facilities in the united states: A systematic review

Rachel A. Prusynski, Allison M. Gustavson, Siddhi R. Shrivastav, Tracy M. Mroz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: Exponential increases in rehabilitation intensity in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) motivated recent changes in Medicare reimbursement policies, which remove financial incentives for providing more minutes of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Yet, there is concern that SNFs will reduce therapy provision and patients will experience worse outcomes. The purpose of this systematic review was to synthesize current evidence on the relationship between therapy intensity and patient outcomes in SNFs. Methods: PubMed, Medline, Scopus, Embase, CINAHL, PEDro, and COCHRANE databases were searched. English-language studies published in the United States between 1998 and February 14, 2020, examining the relationship between therapy intensity and community discharge, hospital readmission, length of stay (LOS), and functional improvement for short-stay SNF patients were considered. Data extraction and risk of bias were performed using the American Academy of Neurology Classification of Evidence scale for causation questions. American Academy of Neurology criteria were used to assess confidence in the evidence for each outcome. Results: Eight observational studies met inclusion criteria. There was moderate evidence that higher intensity therapy was associated with higher rates of community discharge and shorter LOS. One study provided very low-level evidence of associations between higher intensity therapy and lower hospital readmissions after total hip and knee replacement. There was low-level evidence indicating higher intensity therapy is associated with improvements in function. Conclusions: This systematic review concludes with moderate confidence that higher intensity therapy in SNFs leads to higher community discharge rates and shorter LOS. Future research should improve quality of evidence on functional improvement and hospital readmissions. Impact: This systematic review demonstrates that patients in SNFs may benefit from higher intensity therapy. Because new policies no longer incentivize intensive therapy, patient outcomes should be closely monitored to ensure patients in SNFs receive high-quality care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpzaa230
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Causality
  • Decision Making: Organizational
  • Health
  • Insurance
  • Length of Stay
  • Medicare
  • Nursing Homes
  • Outcome Assessment (Health Care)
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Professional Issues
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Reimbursement
  • Patient Readmission
  • United States
  • Humans
  • Patient Discharge
  • Patient Outcome Assessment
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Medicare/economics

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article
  • Systematic Review


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