The Newnan Times-Herald


HealthSouth finds niche in Newnan

  • By Maggie Bowers
  • |
  • Jun. 07, 2017 - 6:15 AM

There is a significant difference between a rehabilitation hospital and a nursing home, according to HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Newnan CEO, Ilona Wozniak.

Giving locals the opportunity to understand the distinction is just one way in which the 30-year health care professional is hoping to inform residents of what the specialty hospital has to offer. Wozniak spoke recently at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Newnan in an effort to further educate the community.  

“The difference between us and a nursing home is that we are licensed as a hospital,” Wozniak said.

The HealthSouth CEO explained that, much like the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, HealthSouth is a specialty facility that treats a distinct set of patients. The range of care the rehabilitation facility can offer the community, however, is far less limited than many residents understand.

Wozniak said that initially, it was difficult to make the distinction to residents. Many locals thought HealthSouth was a place for elderly patients suffering from conditions from which they were unlikely to recover.

“Much of the community didn’t know the difference between a rehabilitation hospital and a rehabilitation center,” Wozniak said. “A rehab center is really a nursing home that denotes itself as a place for rehabilitation.”

HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital physicians and nurses are specially trained and services are designed to help return patients to the healthy, active lifestyles they enjoyed before injury, stroke or a number of other life-altering medical events. The practice is growing and HealthSouth, according to Wozniak, has the highest number of rehabilitation beds in the country. More than 130 HealthSouth hospitals can be found across the United States.

“What is nice about working in a hospital that concentrates on something like rehabilitating patients is that all of the resources can go into that one goal,” Wozniak said. The HealthSouth CEO noted that she has worked in general, acute-care facilities in which rehabilitation was just one aspect of a patient’s care. “At HealthSouth, it is all about just focusing on these patients and what they will need to recover.”

Wozniak explained that unlike in a nursing home, the specialty hospital must meet a higher standard that includes meeting specific criteria in patient care. For example, HealthSouth must provide three hours of physical therapy five days each week – for a total of 15 hours per week. A rehab center, according to Wozniak, may provide as little as 45 minutes per day to patients.

Physical therapy, however, is not just about climbing stairs or running on a treadmill.

“Part of therapy is relearning daily activities,” Wozniak said. “Patients may need to learn to brush their teeth again, comb their hair or even learn how to chew and swallow.”

The care, the HealthSouth CEO added, must be directed by rehabilitation physicians, not simply recommended by physician assistants or nursing staff. HealthSouth nurses are specially trained in the area of rehabilitation, Wozniak said.

Care at the specialty hospital includes being seen by a physician five times per week, and each patient has multiple therapies – physical therapy in addition to cognitive or speech therapy.

“Patients must require both medical and functional care to be treated here,” Wozniak said. The hospital is also regulated by Medicare. “Medicare requires us to have 60 percent of our patients meet the criteria of one of 13 diagnoses, including stroke, brain injuries, spinal injuries and trauma.”

The hospital, according to Wozniak, includes everything one might expect in an acute care or “general” hospital such as a pharmacy, respiratory therapists and a dietician. It is because of these capabilities in care that HealthSouth has been working with Piedmont Healthcare to treat more than those that meet the standards of Medicare-regulated care.

“HealthSouth is different from a rehab center in that we look at the 40 percent and see that there are a lot of other patients that need us and that can be treated here,” Wozniak said. “There is a big push to help patients with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and those with congestive heart failure.”

Wozniak explained that, in some cases, acute care hospitals can be penalized for patients who have to return for further care from the facility soon after being released.

“For example, if a patient has congestive heart failure and they are treated, but then have to go back in the hospital within 30 days, the hospital does not get paid,” Wozniak said. “What we are working on right now with Piedmont Healthcare (specifically Piedmont Newnan and Fayette Hospitals) is working together to care for those patients.”

The HealthSouth CEO noted that one plan might include a patient with COPD staying only one night in the local hospital before being transferred to receive care at HealthSouth.

“An overnight stay at an acute care hospital qualifies as observation, and the hospital won’t be penalized,” Wozniak said. “Because the patient has both medical and functional components to the treatment needed, we can care for the patient and help them get back on their feet.”   

Currently, HealthSouth cares for primarily stroke patients (55 percent), and those with neurological illnesses, including Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. A total of 47 percent of patients at the specialty facility are treated for traumatic injuries including those in automobile accidents.   

“We would like to take care of even more stroke patients,” Wozniak said. “For us, the more stroke patients we take, the more we are serving the needs of the community.”

The American Heart Association recently announced stroke patients should always go to a rehabilitation hospital rather than a nursing home, Wozniak said. “There is a short window in which to reteach your brain what is needed after a stroke, and a hospital like HealthSouth is able to provide much more therapy than what is offered in a rehab center.”