Social Support and Actual Versus Expected Length of Stay in Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities

Zakkoyya H. Lewis, Catherine Cooper Hay, James E. Graham, Yu Li Lin, Amol M. Karmarkar, Kenneth J. Ottenbacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives To describe impairment-specific patterns in shorter- and longer-than-expected lengths of stay in inpatient rehabilitation, and examine the independent effects of social support on deviations from expected lengths of stay. Design Retrospective cohort study. Setting Inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Participants Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries (N=119,437) who were discharged from inpatient rehabilitation facilities in 2012 after stroke, lower extremity fracture, or lower extremity joint replacement. Intervention Not applicable. Main Outcome Measure Relative length of stay (actual minus expected). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services posts annual expected lengths of stay based on patients’ clinical profiles at admission. We created a 3-category outcome variable: short, expected, long. Our primary independent variable (social support) also included 3 categories: family/friends, paid/other, none. Results Mean ± SD actual lengths of stay for joint replacement, fracture, and stroke were 9.8±3.6, 13.8±4.5, and 15.8±7.3 days, respectively; relative lengths of stay were −1.2±3.1, −1.6±3.7, and −1.7±5.2 days. Nearly half of patients (47%–48%) were discharged more than 1 day earlier than expected in all 3 groups, whereas 14% of joint replacement, 15% of fracture, and 20% of stroke patients were discharged more than 1 day later than expected. In multinomial regression analysis, using family/friends as the reference group, paid/other support was associated (P<.05) with higher odds of long stays in joint replacement. No social support was associated with lower odds of short stays in all 3 impairment groups and higher odds of long stays in fracture and joint replacement. Conclusions Inpatient rehabilitation experiences and outcomes can be substantially affected by a patient's level of social support. More research is needed to better understand these relationships and possible unintended consequences in terms of patient access issues and provider-level quality measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2068-2075
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Length of stay
  • Rehabilitation
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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