Most patients who must stay in an acute care facility for an extended period do not have a rosy prognosis. And most people know very little about these specialized care centers. But thanks to an aging population, and the fact that medicine is very good at keeping people alive in the intensive care unit (ICU), the long-term acute care population will grow well beyond the current estimate of 380,000 patients.
These are highly dependent patients who survive the ICU, but aren’t well enough to go home or to a rehabilitation facility. According to a recent story in the New York Times called “At These Hospitals, Recovery Is Rare, but Comfort Is Not,” long-term acute care is “where you go when you survive but you don’t recover.”
In a profile of the Hospital for Special Care, one of 400 long-term acute care facilities in the U.S., The Times describes critically ill people who might live here for months or years, dependent on a respirator and, often, feeding tubes. Younger people sometimes recover, others won’t.
The cost is huge and the patient population has more than tripled in the last 10 years. We – practitioners, policymakers, consumers – are going to have to pay attention to this segment of the health-care industry, and grapple with how best we can deliver and accept this kind of end-of-life care.
Read the whole story here.