Now more than ever, it is important for providers to be flexible in their ability to respond to current and future patient needs as the medically complex patient population continues to increase. But flexibility isn’t just important in an immediate crisis— it’s something healthcare leaders should be thinking about amid a rapidly changing healthcare landscape.
Co-locating beyond short-term acute care -- including rehabilitation, long-term acute care and behavioral health -- allows for beds to be designated flexibly across these services, bringing new financial opportunities that give health systems a better chance at success under value-based care.
Further, when health systems are able to provide a wider range of the care continuum on one campus, they’re better able to manage care transitions, which is critical to both clinical and quality performance.
Three specific areas in which co-location could benefit a hospital’s overall operations include:
- Care transitions: When patients leave the hospital and are placed in the care of other organizations, the referring health system loses control over their care and ultimately has little influence over whether the patient is readmitted. Health systems that co-locate more of the continuum on their campus stand a better chance of avoiding these negative outcomes, while maintaining a consistent flow of revenue.
- Behavioral health integration: Health systems face a shortage of physicians across specialties, but it is particularly hard to staff behavioral health beds. The need for behavioral health services was already rising well before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has increased that need. Co-locating multiple service lines can open the door to the possibility of behavioral health integration – enabling patients to receive a new form of care previously unavailable to them.
- Addressing consumer needs: Consumers are increasingly doing their own research to determine the best care setting for themselves or their loved ones. This behavior of “shopping” for care isn’t limited to ambulatory care—patients are demanding convenience and quality across the continuum and are more educated about their options, especially after the pandemic.
One of the most critical ways leaders can set their organization apart from the competition is knowing how to provide the right care in the right setting, and having the tools at their disposal to do it at the highest level of quality. This success has been demonstrated through the co-location model.
However, specialized care is complicated, which is why health systems often look to partnership for not only unit or hospital management, but the integration of both to form a successful co-location model.