A goal of Medicare's bundled payment models is to improve quality and control costs after hospital discharge. Little is known about how participating hospitals are focusing their efforts to achieve these objectives, particularly around the use of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). To understand hospitals' approaches, we conducted semistructured interviews with an executive or administrator in each of twenty-two hospitals and health systems participating in Medicare's Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement model or its Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative for lower extremity joint replacement episodes. We identified two major organizational responses. One principal strategy was to reduce SNF referrals, using risk-stratification tools, patient education, home care supports, and linkages with home health agencies to facilitate discharges to home. Another was to enhance integration with SNFs: fifteen hospitals or health systems in our sample had formed networks of preferred SNFs to exert influence over SNF quality and costs. Common coordination strategies included sharing access to electronic medical records, embedding providers across facilities, hiring dedicated care coordination staff, and creating platforms for data sharing. As hospitals presumably move toward home-based care and more selective SNF referrals, more evidence is needed to understand how these discharge practices affect the quality of care and patient outcomes.
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