A swing bed is a physical hospital bed that can be used for two purposes – acute and post-acute care.
The purpose is to allow patients in rural communities to receive quality post-acute care within their community. Prior to Medicare’s swing bed program, hospitals were only permitted to provide acute care often leaving discharged patients and families with no local options for needed skilled nursing care.
The following requirements must be met to be approved for swing bed services:
Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) are also eligible by nature and are required to be compliant with the SNF requirements as well.
Hospitals meeting these requirements can enter into Medicare’s assessment process to be formally approved to provide SNF services under their swing bed program.
Medicare allowed Swing Bed reimbursement because, in the 1960s, legislators were looking for ways to financially bolster rural community hospitals and better serve patients.
At the time, there was a shortage of post-acute care facilities for rural patients to transfer to after hospital discharge. Rural hospitals always had the capabilities to care for these patients, but they were not approved to provide or bill for post-acute care services.
Doing so would put their hospital status in jeopardy.
Once the concept of Swing Beds was born, studies and demo sites were put in place to demonstrate the viability of the swing bed concept. In 1980, formal legislation was enacted, and the swing bed program grew to a 97% adoption rate at eligible hospitals by 1986.¹
Since the swing bed program affects a small, less-funded part of the industry, hospital EHRs historically were not built to handle swing beds. But, as technology and vendors have evolved, rural hospital can now find a handful of EHRs focused on meeting the needs of the rural healthcare environment including swing beds.
Azalea Health is committed to serving the needs of our rural hospitals. If your hospital is looking to make a change, we would love to start a conversation.
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