Common misconceptions surrounding long-term acute care hospitals (LTACHs) have hindered health systems from including LTACHs in their market expansion strategies - ultimately limiting access to critical care options for medically complex patients. However, as health systems begin to uncover the true value of LTACH integration, they can start begin to reap the benefits it provides to patient care, outcomes, and hospital efficiencies.

Below are two common misconceptions of long-term acute care that highlight how LTACHs play a vital role in helping to ensure optimal patient outcomes.

  1. Treating Medically Complex Patients

    Icon - Uniquely Equipped to Treat Medically Complex Patients For years, consumers have viewed short-term acute care hospitals (STACHs) as the care setting best equipped to treat high-acuity, chronically-ill patients. However, the rapid rise in medically complex patients with multiple comorbidities has shed a light on LTACHs unique ability to treat these high-acuity patients who benefit from longer care stays.

    Further, throughout the COVID-19, LTACHs have continued to demonstrate their specific advantage among post-acute care providers in treating the medically complex patient population, as evidenced by the fact that LTACHs were 50% less likely than skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) to discharge a current patient to a STACH.1

  2. Additional benefits of long-term acute care hospitals for the overall health system:

    • Cost Efficiency and Population Health Management: Highly trained LTACH clinical liaisons can work with families and healthcare providers to identify patients who would benefit from continued acute care, as well as with payor networks to ensure that these patients receive access to the most effective treatment for their diagnoses.

    • Comprehensive Rehabilitation for Lasting Recovery: Along with ICU-level treatment, LTACHs provide acute rehabilitation care which supports lasting patient recovery. An LTACH’s ability to provide such high-quality clinical expertise enables them to successfully support recovery for patients who require extended ICU-level treatment.
  3. Average Length of Stay

    Icon - Shorter Average Length of Stay

    Contrary to its name, “long-term hospital care” does not always mean “longer length of stay”. LTACHs have the unique ability to treat patients who are medically complex, therefore often reducing the need for treatment in multiple care settings and reducing the length of treatment per episode.

    Another common misconception in the healthcare space is that LTACH patients must stay for 25 days. Although 25 days is feasible and is recommended for patients who require it, an LTACH accepts a variety of clinically complex patients requiring varying lengths of stay (LOS). The average LOS requirement only applies to LTACH qualified patients with traditional Medicare FFS coverage and does not apply to Medicare Advantage enrollees, which presents greater discharge options for the rapidly growing enrollment in managed care plans.

Benefits of LTACH Partnership

As hospitals continue to recognize the value of LTACHs within their care continuum, the opportunity to not only expand access to more specialized care but also improve outcomes of the overall health system increases. These outcomes can be further achieved with the help of an experienced and trusted long-term acute care partner with a demonstrated history of helping health systems integrate and successfully run LTACHs.

Read our whitepaper, “LTACHs: Four Things Hospital Leaders Need to Know to Enhance Outcomes” to learn more about the benefits of LTACH partnership and how Kindred can help.


  1. ATI Advisory. “Role of LTAC Hospitals in COVID-19 Pandemic”, 2021
By Kindred Hospitals