The pandemic has thrown the long-term care industry into a tailspin.
Fearful of contracting the virus, patients have stayed away from nursing homes, causing a plunge in census numbers for facilities that rely on long-term care residents, short-term rehabilitation referrals and transfers from hospitals.
“Is the industry going to downsize? Yes,” said Andy Edeburn, a principal at Premier, a group purchasing and consulting organization. “Not all nursing homes are going to come back.”
Nursing home occupancies are at an all-time low and facilities are struggling to stay open. Nursing home occupancy dropped 16.5 percentage points to 68.5% in January 2021 from 85% in January 2020, according to the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living. In addition, 143 facilities closed or merged with other organizations in 2020 and 1,670 are projected to do so in 2021, AHCA/NCAL estimated.
But therein lies an opportunity for nursing homes to reinvent themselves. Edeburn believes facilities can become “super SNFs,” employing more physicians and nurse practitioners, innovating how they care for patients, deploying new technology, and managing more complex cases.