Brief Report| Volume 22, ISSUE 10, P2201-2206, October 2021

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Therapy Staffing in Skilled Nursing Facilities Declined after Implementation of the Patient-Driven Payment Model



      The Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM), a new reimbursement policy for Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs), was implemented in October 2019. PDPM disincentivizes provision of intensive physical and occupational therapy, however, there is concern that declines in therapy staffing may negatively impact patient outcomes. This study aimed to characterize the SNF industry response to PDPM in terms of therapy staffing.


      Segmented regression interrupted time series.

      Setting and Participants

      15,432 SNFs in the United States.


      Using SNF Payroll Based Journal data from January 1, 2019, through March 31, 2020, we calculated national weekly averages of therapy staffing minutes per patient-day for all therapy staff and for subgroups of physical and occupational therapists, therapy assistants, contract staff, and in-house employees. We used interrupted time series regression to estimate immediate and gradual effects of PDPM implementation.


      Total therapy staffing minutes per patient-day declined by 5.5% in the week immediately following PDPM implementation (P < .001), and the trend experienced an additional decline of 0.2% per week for the first 6 months after PDPM compared with the negative pre-PDPM baseline trend (P < .001), for a 14.7% total decline by the end of March 2020. Physical and occupational therapy disciplines experienced similar immediate and gradual declines in staffing. Assistant and contract staffing reductions were larger than for therapist and in-house employees, respectively. All subgroups except for assistants and contract staff experienced significantly steeper declines in staffing trends compared with pre-PDPM trends.

      Conclusions and Implications

      SNFs appeared to have responded to PDPM with both immediate and gradual reductions in therapy staffing, with an average decline of 80 therapy staffing minutes over the average patient stay. Assistant and contract staff experienced the largest immediate declines. Therapy staffing and quality outcomes require ongoing monitoring to ensure staffing reductions do not have negative implications for patients.


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