BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (November 24, 2020)—The percentage of patients discharged from short-term acute care hospitals (STACH) to home health has risen from 11% in May 2019 to 19% one calendar year later, according to a new report from ATI Advisory.

The number of patients discharged from STACH to any post-acute setting declined from over 800,000 patients in May 2019 to 558,296 in May of 2020. The information comes from Medicare fee-for-service data and includes only Medicare Part A reimbursement for home health agencies.

The percentage of patients discharged to skilled nursing facilities (SNF) declined from 19% in May 2019 to 15% in May 2020.

The data indicates the greater role played by home health agencies during the COVID-19 public health emergency. It is not clear if this trend represents a permanent change or if it is mostly due to increased reliance on home health during the pandemic.

From January to May 2020, almost 105,000 COVID-19 patients were discharged from STACH, with 29% sent home without further care services, 25% sent to SNF and 8% sent to home health agencies.

Of the 3.21 million discharges from STACH from January through May 2020, 17% went to home health care.

Analysts believe we will know more about whether or not these changes are a long-term trend or a distortion created by the public health emergency. Further information, particularly after the end of the pandemic, should help determine if this will last longer or not.

Find the full report here.