Research Alert



The aim of this study was to describe the characteristics and outcomes of Medicare patients treated in inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs) in 2013 through 2018.


A descriptive study was conducted.


A total of 2,907,046 IRF Medicare fee-for-service and Medicare Advantage patient stays that ended in 2013 through 2018 were analyzed.


The number of Medicare patients treated in IRFs increased by about 9%, from 466,092 in 2013 to 509,475 in 2018. Although IRF patients’ age and racial/ethnic composition remained similar across the years, there was a shift in patients’ primary rehabilitation diagnosis, with more patients with stroke, neurological conditions, traumatic and nontraumatic brain injury, fewer patients with orthopedic conditions, and fewer coded as having medically complex conditions. Across the years, the percentage of patients discharged to the community was between 73.0% and 74.4%.

Clinical Relevance to the Practice of Rehabilitation Nursing 

Rehabilitation nurses should have training and expertise in the management of patients with stroke and neurological conditions to provide high-quality IRF care.


Between 2013 and 2018, the number of Medicare patients treated in IRFs increased overall. There were more patients with stroke and neurological conditions and fewer patients with orthopedic conditions. Changes to IRF and other post-acute care policies, Medicaid expansion, and alternative payment programs may partially be driving these changes.

Journal Link: Rehabilitation Nursing 48(3):p 109-121, 5/6 2023