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What It's Like to Call a Skilled Nursing Facility

Recently I helped call skilled nursing facilities (SNF) on behalf of a family friend who had just had a hip replacement. The process of selecting a SNF was time intensive.

I feel fortunate that as a physician I understood the medical lingo being discussed and knew the types of services and costs associated with skilled nursing. I can only imagine how overwhelming this process must be for people without a medical background. Here are a few tips on what to look for when you visit a SNF.

Like in real estate location is everything. You may want a facility that is convenient for family and friends to visit, or you may want to be near your medical hub for ease of transportation to your appointments (and god forbid your preferred ER).

After you have selected your desired location(s), you can start calling. The admissions director usually will be able to answer your questions and help you understand if that particular SNF will be a good fit. If no one in the admissions office is available (they are often off-site visiting prospective patients at referring hospitals), I found it useful to ask for the site administrator, director of nursing, or executive director. Over the course of my calls, I was often transferred to multiple people to get answers to my questions.

Here are some questions (in no particular order) that I found to be good starting points.

  1. Do you offer [[ insert your particular specialty care ]] at your facility?
    The specialty care is usually a skilled care keeping in mind there might be multiple skilled care needs. Other specialty needs which are not technically skilled care are services that require unique equipment/expertise. These range from religious services and specific diets to bariatric beds that can accommodate residents weighing 500lbs.

  2. Do you accept [[ insert your insurance ]]?
    Most facilities accept Medicare, few for Medicaid. Private insurances vary.

  3. What is your Medicare rating?
    The Medicare rating. Is the most complete objective rating system currently available.

  4. What hospitals do you usually get referrals from? (And the related question: what hospitals are the physicians at your facility affiliates with)
    Knowing the hospital and physician affiliations matter because they help you understand how easily physicians at that SNF will be able to access your medical records, speak with your primary care/specialty physicians, and navigate your healthcare ecosystem.

  5. What are you daily costs for semiprivate rooms or private rooms (if available)?
    Usually the rooms are covered by your insurance however the amount varies by your type of insurance and the number of days you are planning to stay or have already stayed in one calendar year. However if you are out of the insurance coverage criteria or do not have insurance you may be in for a surprise by how much SNFs vary in cost. Even SNFs just a few miles apart can be differ by 200% per day!

In my experience this process usually takes 15 minutes per facility once you are connected with the right person. It’s important to note that you may need to call multiple times or leave a voicemail. Be persistent. Be sure to make this decision with as much relevant information as you can.

Of course nothing replaces an in-person visit! So, if a SNF sounds promising, don’t hesitate to book a tour.

With Rockfish you can quickly get most of the questions I discussed answered without even picking up your phone! We’re working hard to make it so that you can focus your energy on selecting a SNF rather than scrambling to gather information.

Once you have selected a list of your favorite SNFs, you can print out a neatly formatted list of these facilities with their addresses, contact information, and space to take notes during your visits. Click here to learn more.