What is subacute care?

What is subacute care?

Subacute care is a crucial aspect of the healthcare system, offering intermediate medical and rehabilitative services to bridge the gap between acute hospitalization and home care. This type of care is designed to support patients who require a longer recovery period than acute care can provide but do not need long-term care. Subacute care encompasses a wide range of treatments for physical and mental health conditions, from wound management to complex post-surgical recovery.

Types of Subacute Care:

1. Inpatient Services:
Inpatient subacute care involves patients staying in a healthcare facility for comprehensive treatments, such as wound management, intravenous therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, medication management, nutritional counseling, pain management, and more. This service aims to help patients recover from surgery or illness, enabling them to return home as soon as possible.

2. Outpatient Services:
Outpatient subacute care provides ongoing treatment for individuals with complex medical conditions without requiring overnight stays at a healthcare facility. It offers various medical tests and treatments on an appointment basis in a clinic.

Conditions Requiring Subacute Care:

Patients who may benefit from subacute care usually have conditions that are too severe for home health services but do not necessitate the intensive treatment provided in acute care settings. These conditions may include stroke recovery and rehabilitation, neurological impairment, orthopedic issues such as fractures or joint replacements, respiratory illness, and wound management.

Pediatric Subacute Care:

Pediatric subacute care is a vital component of healthcare for children who need additional medical attention and specialized treatment. It provides a transition between the hospital and home while ensuring each patient receives individualized, high-quality care. The goal is to improve outcomes by managing symptoms, optimizing functioning, addressing medical needs, and preventing complications associated with long-term illnesses or injuries.

Benefits of Subacute Nursing Care:

Subacute care offers several advantages for patients and their families:

1. Comprehensive medical services in a home-like environment close to family and friends.
2. Individualized, quality treatment, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology services, to aid recovery and maximize independence.
3. Support from experienced and highly skilled nurses focused on helping individuals regain strength and mobility through therapeutic exercises and counseling.
4. Emotional support for patients’ families by providing information about community resources available for post-discharge follow-up care.

Challenges of Subacute Care:

1. Determining the appropriate level of medical attention each patient needs.
2. Balancing the level of medical oversight to optimize health outcomes while minimizing unnecessary costs.
3. Handling the higher expenses associated with subacute services due to extensive staff requirements and specialized equipment needs.
4. Striking the right balance between providing quality medical and nursing care while avoiding unnecessary interventions for patients with complex conditions.

Acute Care vs. Subacute Care:

Acute care focuses on providing immediate medical attention to health conditions that require urgent treatment, often leading to hospitalization and intensive medical care. In contrast, subacute care caters to patients who no longer need acute care but still require ongoing medical attention or additional care following hospital discharge. Subacute settings typically include nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and other long-term facilities offering 24-hour skilled nursing services.

Subacute Care vs. Skilled Nursing:

While both subacute care and skilled nursing involve health care services, they have distinct differences. Subacute care is short-term and specialized medical treatment provided in settings like hospitals, bridging the gap between hospitalization and returning home. Skilled nursing, on the other hand, offers around-the-clock medical attention tailored to individual needs, often provided in rehabilitation or long-term care facilities with comprehensive medical services and support staff.

Post-Acute Care vs. Subacute Care:

Post-acute and subacute care refer to medical services provided after a patient is discharged from the acute hospital setting. Post-acute care is generally offered in settings like skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, or short-term rehabilitation centers. Subacute care, being more intensive and specialized, may be provided in intermediate-level care facilities. Post-acute care typically involves general medical and rehabilitation services for patients no longer requiring acute hospitalization but needing additional assistance with daily activities.


1. What Does Subacute Mean in Healthcare?

Subacute care refers to medical services provided after a patient is discharged from the acute hospital setting. It aims to provide ongoing treatment for patients who no longer need acute hospitalization but still require additional help with activities of daily living.

2. What is an Example of a Subacute Care Facility?

A skilled nursing facility that offers short-term, specialized medical treatment to patients transitioning from hospitalization to home is an example of a subacute care facility.

3. What is the Difference Between Acute and Subacute Care?

Acute care is intensive medical treatment provided for urgent health conditions requiring immediate attention, while subacute care caters to patients no longer needing acute care but still requiring ongoing medical attention or additional care.

4. What is Subacute Care Also Called?

Subacute care is also known as post-acute or transitional care, providing treatment to patients recently discharged from the hospital but not yet ready to return home. It is often offered in skilled nursing facilities or with proper monitoring equipment at home.

Bottom Line:

Subacute care plays a critical role in providing specialized care for patients who are not ready to go home after being hospitalized. It helps bridge the gap between inpatient hospital care and home care, allowing providers to continue treating underlying illnesses while promoting patient independence. Subacute care is commonly provided at various facilities, offering comprehensive services to facilitate recovery and rehabilitation.