Objectives: To determine why non-mechanically ventilated hospitalized older adults are transferred to long-term acute care (LTAC) hospitals rather than remaining in the hospital. Design: Observational cohort. Setting: National Medicare data. Participants: Non-mechanically ventilated hospitalized adults aged 65 and older with fee-for-service Medicare in 2012 who were transferred to an LTAC hospital (n=1,831) or had a prolonged hospitalization without transfer (average hospital length of stay or longer of those transferred to an LTAC hospital) and had one of the 50 most common hospital diagnoses leading to LTAC transfer (N=12,875). Measurements: We assessed predictors of transfer using a multilevel model, adjusting for patient-, hospital-, and hospital referral region (HRR)-level factors. We estimated proportions of variance at each level and adjusted hospital- and HRR-specific LTAC transfer rates using sequential models. Results: The strongest predictor of transfer was being hospitalized near an LTAC hospital (<1.4 vs > 33.6 miles, adjusted odds ratio=6.2, 95% confidence interval (CI)=4.2–9.1). After adjusting for case mix, differences between hospitals explained 15.4% of the variation in LTAC use and differences between regions explained 27.8%. Case mix–adjusted LTAC use was high in the South, where many HRRs had rates between 20.3% and 53.1%, whereas many HRRs were less than 5.4% in the Pacific Northwest, North, and New England. From our fully adjusted model, the median adjusted hospital LTAC transfer rate was 7.2% (interquartile range 2.8–17.5%), with substantial within-region variation (intraclass coefficient=0.25, 95% CI=0.21–0.30). Conclusions: Nearly half of the variation in LTAC use is independent of illness severity and is explained by which hospital and what region the individual was hospitalized in. Because of the greater fragmentation of care and Medicare spending with LTAC transfers (because LTAC hospitals generate a separate bundled payment from the hospital), greater attention is needed to define the optimal role of LTAC hospitals in caring for older adults.
- health policy
- long-term acute care hospital
- postacute care
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geriatrics and Gerontology