American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Subacute Care

Subacute care is provided on an inpatient basis for those individuals needing services that are more intensive than those typically received in skilled nursing facilities but less intensive than acute care. For a patient to qualify for inpatient rehabilitation they must be able to tolerate 3 hours of therapy per day (speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy) at least 5 days per week. If the person cannot tolerate this much therapy or no longer requires therapy at this intensive a level, they may be better served at the subacute level.

Subacute units tend to be housed in skilled nursing facilities or on skilled nursing units. Subacute may sometimes be found in rehabilitation hospitals, although this is less common.

There is no distinct Medicare payment system for subacute care. The same conditions of participation apply to both subacute and skilled nursing facilities.

Speech-language pathologists working in subacute units provide the same range of services seen in inpatient rehabilitation and skilled nursing facilities, including speech, language, cognitive-communication, and swallowing treatment. Patients have similar etiologies, as well, including stroke, head injury, dementia, and complex medical conditions.

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