Northwestern Medicine to Shutter SNF, Make Home Health Push

Those looking for evidence that home-based care is gaining importance as the U.S. health system evolves can look to Chicago.

Northwestern Medicine, a major Windy City integrated health care system, is shutting down a skilled nursing facility (SNF) at the same time that it is joining a new initiative to expand home-based primary care. Crain’s Chicago Business reported the story Thursday, with the headline: “Out with nursing homes, in with home health care.”

Consumer preferences for home care or private-pay senior housing—such as assisted living—have eroded occupancy at traditional nursing homes like the Northwestern-owned Westmoreland Nursing Center, the article stated. Occupancy at the 84-bed Westmoreland decreased nearly 50% since 2012, reaching an annual rate of 61% as of 2012, according to documents Northwestern filed with the state of Illinois in July, applying to shutter the facility.

Westmoreland is affiliated with Northwestern-owned Lake Forest Hospital, in the affluent northern Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. A $378 million health care center is in the works to replace the current hospital, and this new construction will not include a long-term care facility; this is due to the “new health care model” in the United States, Northwestern spokesman Chris King told Crain’s.

Northwestern is among several academic medical centers that sees home-based care as a critical part of this emerging model. It is one of eight “Centers of Excellence” launching a new home health training program. The program aims to increase the number of clinicians focused on home-based primary care, with a target of growing this workforce by 5,000 clinicians within five years.

Written by Tim Mullaney

Photo Credit: “Downtown Chicago” by Josh Evnin, CC BY SA 2.0