If you have health insurance, you’re often offered the option of going directly into a rehabilitation facility for a week or two of intensive physio.

It sounds like a sensible thing to do but is there any evidence that you do better than having your rehabilitation in the community as an outpatient?

The cost differences are enormous: over $9000 for inpatient rehab compared to around $900 at home.  Given we all complain about rising health insurance premiums, this is a significant source of expenditure.

A research group at the University of NSW compared people going through inpatient and community based rehabilitation after knee replacement and found no differences in standard measures of improvement such as function and pain.  In fact those at home expressed higher levels of health and wellbeing.

These results don’t mean that inpatient rehabilitation is a waste of resources for everyone.

People living alone or elderly people whose carer is frail, may well benefit from getting on their feet before going home.  But it does mean that there’s a choice and if it doesn’t suit you to be in hospital longer, that community-based rehabilitation can deliver results which are the same.

Last Reviewed: 18/01/2020

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.

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