When someone suffers an accident or stroke or needs surgery, the first place he or she goes is an acute-care hospital, such as a Lehigh Valley Hospital or a St. Luke’s Hospital in the Lehigh Valley. There, clinicians patch up injuries, perform surgeries and stabilize the patient. After being stabilized, some patients—often those with underlying conditions—may be too medically fragile to go home, to a rehabilitation facility or to a skilled nursing facility. Many are then sent to a long-term acute care hospital, or LTACH .
Patients at LTACHs are very ill and may need cardiac monitoring, multiple IVs or ventilators. The most common diagnoses include respiratory and cardiac failure. Other conditions treated include: brain injury, burns, cardiovascular disease, complex and pressure wounds, complicated fractures, medically complex conditions, methicillin-resistant staph aureus infections, peripheral vascular disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, surgical recuperation, tracheotomies with complications and trauma injuries.
The nurses, therapists and physicians at an LTACH have special expertise in weaning people off of ventilators and treating complex wounds. LTACHs also offer services such as radiology, CT scans, MRI, cardiology and laboratory services.
The average length of stay for patients in an LTACH is 25 days. Upon discharge, patients move on to the next level of their recovery, which may be a skilled nursing facility, assisted living facility, rehabilitation hospital or home.
Here are a few things to look for when choosing the right LTACH for yourself or a loved one:
- Seek out medical facilities that are accredited by the Joint Commission, which is an independent, non-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 15,000 health-care organizations and programs in the United States. Before an accreditation is granted, Joint Commission surveyors spend several days visiting the facilities, quizzing staff, meeting with administrators and observing care. Facilities that receive the Joint Commission accreditation have successfully met stringent requirements.
- Review the facilities’ patient outcomes. Positive outcomes indicate a higher level of expertise and care.
- Choose facilities with friendly, reliable care managers. Care managers work directly with the patient, family and care team. They help patients and their families navigate the maze of services, providers, plans and paperwork that accompany an injury or illness. A good care manager is key to getting the best and most, appropriate care for the patient.
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