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Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF)

What is a skilled nursing facility (SNF)?

A skilled nursing facility (SNF) is a type of inpatient facility that provides short or long-term skilled nursing care, and rehabilitation services to patients. These facilities provide 24-hour medical support to patients requiring transitional care following a qualifying hospital stay for illness, injury, or surgery.

SNFs employ a wide variety of medical professionals—including nurse practitioners (NPs), registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), certified nurses’ aides (CNAs), speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and physical therapists. The services that these professionals offer can include any of the following:

What is the difference between a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home?

The essential difference between a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home can be summed up based on the duration of stay. A nursing home is more of a permanent residence for patients who need assistance with daily living activities or chronic conditions, while a skilled nursing facility is designed to be a temporary residence for patients undergoing treatment for serious injuries or illnesses.

SNFs are meant to be short-term facilities. The main goal of a skilled nursing facility is to help a patient regain their ability to do activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, cooking, personal hygiene, walking, and getting into/out of a bed or chair. By contrast, a nursing home is a long-term residential center primarily for seniors who are medically stable but can’t be cared for at home due to chronic conditions or a lack of mobility. Residents at a nursing home may not need 24/7 intensive care, but medical assistance and certain medical services may be available to them.

Nursing homes also tend to be more expensive than skilled nursing facilities. Medicare does not cover custodial care services offered by nursing homes or long-term care stays in a nursing home. To defray the costs of a nursing home stay, residents will typically purchase additional long-term care insurance or pay out of pocket.

Why are skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) important in healthcare?

Skilled nursing facilities provide important post-discharge care to patients who might require additional support following their inpatient hospital stay. Without the care that these facilities provide, patients may be at risk of facing post-discharge complications and hospital readmission. By helping patients receive the highest quality of care post-discharge and reducing the rate of complications, SNFs also help to control associated healthcare costs.

The primary goal of SNFs is to assist patients in their recovery process so that they can safely return home. Because of this, most patients’ insurance covers short-term inpatient stays at an SNF. Medicare beneficiaries are covered for up to 100 days in a skilled nursing facility and face out-of-pocket costs for each additional day they spend in SNF care.