Creature comforts are restorative in next generation rehab care facility

August 15, 2015


When Sue Gordon, 75, of Minneapolis fractured her hip last summer, she spent seven weeks post-surgery at a rehab facility she describes as "grandma's nursing home."

Recovering from a stroke that affected the left side of his body, Dave Ryan walks on a treadmill equipped with an inflatable chamber that reduces gravity's impact and allows him to exercise without carrying his full body weight. Ryan watches a live display of his stride on the treadmill screen. Physical therapist Mary Horoshak assists him at the Interlude Restorative Suites in Fridley, Minn., which is managed by Benedictine Health System.

"The care and the facility were both adequate, but the atmosphere was very institutional. I had a private room that was rather worn and depressing. Meals were served cafeteria-style at specified hours — continental breakfast, lunch at 11 a.m., dinner at 4 p.m. — and the food was less than appetizing. And the focus of the physical therapy sessions was to get broken things unbroken, not necessarily to make me feel well," she recalls.

So when Gordon fell a second time just eight months later and fractured her femur, requiring more surgery and another stint in rehab, she wasn't happy about the prospect of once again becoming what she calls "a prison inmate."

Luckily, her convalescence this spring coincided with the opening of Interlude Restorative Suites in Fridley, Minn., a new generation of freestanding transitional care centers that aims to treat patients as "guests," providing state-of-the-art rehabilitation along with five-star hotel accommodations.

"The difference between the two places was like night and day," Gordon says. "Interlude is called 'restorative' and it truly is, from the beautiful design and furnishings of the building to the chef who whips up delicious, made-to-order entrees to the doctors, nurses and therapists who work so hard to provide highly skilled medical care to help you get better," says Gordon. "I worked in the hotel business for 40 years and, honestly, Interlude was nicer than any place I've ever experienced."

Dave Ryan, 68, who is widowed, spent two and a half weeks at Interlude last spring after suffering a stroke that caused temporary left-sided paralysis. He was equally enthusiastic about his stay there.

"I had never been in rehab before, but my wife spent time in a different facility so I was familiar with run-of-the mill places," he says. "Interlude is an entirely different concept. Everyone is so accommodating, and the gym equipment is practically futuristic. Aside from being a stroke survivor, I am an amputee, so learning to walk again was quite challenging. Interlude has a pool with a zero-gravity treadmill in it that was developed by NASA for the astronauts, and it was instrumental in my recovery.

"I hope I don't ever have reason to go through rehab again, but if I do, I would go back to Interlude without question," Ryan adds.

Anticipating desires, market trends
Rave reviews like that make Sharon Johnson's day. As administrator/chief executive of Interlude Restorative Suites in Fridley, she considers her job to be twofold — running what she calls a "high hospitality model" facility as well as an "exceptionally strong clinical care" facility for short-stay rehabilitation.

"We are trying to anticipate the needs and desires of a new kind of patient — the baby boomer who wants excellent health care along with luxurious surroundings," she says. "It's a care model designed to appeal to the growing number of people who are active participants in managing their care and want a smoother transition from hospital to home."


Interlude, which includes a second facility in Plymouth, Minn., was created by three organizations with experience in providing hospital-based acute care, inpatient rehabilitation and transitional care services — Allina Health, Benedictine Health System and Presbyterian Homes & Services.

Interlude in Fridley is managed by the Catholic nonprofit Benedictine Health System and sits next to Unity Hospital, part of Allina Health. Interlude in Plymouth is managed by Presbyterian Homes & Services and is located on the campus of Abbott Northwestern-WestHealth, also part of Allina Health. Both are approximately $15 million, 50-bed facilities.

The silent treatment
As a "high hospitality model" facility, Interlude features award-winning architectural style, including a lobby with a two-story fireplace and curved windows. The first floor is home to a bistro serving up everything from omelets and yogurt parfaits to Greek salads, grilled salmon with broccoli and made-to-order pastas. A licensed beauty salon is open to the public, concierge services are available and there are therapy rooms, including a pool used for aquatic therapy. "Guest" quarters are on the second and third floors; room service is available and emphasis is placed on keeping hallways quiet and restful. (There are no alarms or overhead pages, for example; the staff communicates with walkie-talkies with earpieces.)


Because both Interlude Restorative Suites are located on hospital campuses, transfer patients arrive along with their electronic medical records. Staff members are familiar with the care patients received in the hospital and are trained and equipped to provide the specific rehabilitation each patient requires.

"All our floor nurses are RNs, not LPNs. We have a ratio of 1:12 RNs to patients, and 1:8 certified nursing assistants to patients," says Johnson. Patients get intensive therapy. "We also offer therapy seven days a week, twice or more (daily) or as needed, no weekends off. And, of course, all our equipment is first-rate."

Containing care costs
Interlude was created not only to respond to the demands of baby boomers, but also to respond to health care reform. "Interlude is designed to reduce total cost of care by shortening lengths of stay, reducing hospital readmissions and improving recovery outcomes," Johnson says.

To that end, Interlude features clinically integrated "care pathways" for five specific diagnoses — heart attacks, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia and orthopedic procedures like total joint replacements — that incur penalties for hospital readmissions. In response to demand, says Johnson, a sixth pathway for spinal surgery has been added as well.

"Our challenge right now is that we are in the process of payment transformation. Some providers offer bundled payments, others use value-based payments. There are traditional, all-inclusive Medicare insurance reimbursements as well as traditional insurance payer contracts with negotiated rates," says Johnson.

With those challenges, though, come rewards, says Johnson. "In the long run, what is important to us is upholding the mission of Benedictine Health System and its core values of hospitality, stewardship, respect and justice. We feel that stewardship is part of the solution to managing health care costs.

"It may sound contradictory, but creating luxurious facilities like Interlude Restorative Suites may not only appeal to patient demand," says Johnson. "They may also help to control long-term costs by shortening lengths of stay and reducing readmissions."


Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.