COVID-19 has in many ways changed the post-acute care landscape. Home care now is more often seen as a viable option, according to “Role of LTAC Hospitals in COVID-19 Pandemic,” a research paper published by healthcare consulting firm ATI Advisory.

While long-term acute care (LTAC) hospitals have become a critical release valve for short-term acute care hospitals (STACH) during the pandemic, home health agencies also have played an important role, the paper asserted. In the early months of the Public Health Emergency, for example, STACH discharges shifted from home and skilled nursing facilities to home health agencies, according to the report. As SNFs’ share slipped, HHAs increased their portion of total Medicare fee-for-service STACH discharges, receiving almost 20% of STACH discharge volume in May 2020.

As infection control concerns plagued skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), home health agencies (HHAs) took on a greater portion of hospital discharges in the first months of the pandemic, according to the ATI Advisory report.

Meanwhile, from March through May 2020, home accounted for some of the highest STACH COVID-19 discharges: 48.5% in March, 28.4% in April and 25% in May. For the study, ATI Advisory used Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ claims data, along with qualitative interviews with healthcare professionals and clinicians.