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Making the decision where to receive post-acute care can be challenging for you and your family, and sometimes the terminology behind it is complex. Here are some of the most common words and phrases you need to know when taking the next step in your recovery journey.

If you would like more information on any of the terms listed here or have a question about a term that is not listed, please visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website.

Browse Terms by Letter


ADL (Activities of Daily Living)

The tasks of everyday life. Basic ADLs include eating, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, taking a bath or shower, etc.

Admission Date

The date the patient was admitted for inpatient care, outpatient service or start of care. For an admission notice for hospice care, enter the effective date of election of hospice benefits.


The removal of a limb by trauma, medical illness, or surgery.


A person who has had a limb amputated.


Drugs that a person is given before surgery so he or she will not feel pain. Anesthesia should always be given by a doctor or a specially trained nurse.


Medicines that fight bacterial infections in people and animals. 


The main artery of the body, supplying oxygenated blood to the circulatory system.


When the body's natural defense system can't tell the difference between your own cells and the foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells. 




Acting on the heart. 


A person who helps care for someone who is ill, disabled, or aged. Some caregivers are relatives or friends who volunteer their help. Some people provide caregiving services for a cost.

Case Manager

A nurse, doctor or social worker who arranges all services that are needed to give proper health care to a patient or group of patients.

Cebrospinal Fluid

A clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. 

Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' agency responsible for Medicare and parts of Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has historically maintained the UB-92 institutional Electronic Media Claims (EMC) format specifications, the professional EMC NSF specifications, and specifications for various certifications and authorizations used by the Medicare and Medicaid programs. CMS is responsible for oversight of HIPAA administrative simplification transaction and code sets, health identifiers, and security standards. CMS also maintains the HCPCS medical code set and the Medicare Remittance Advice Remark Codes administrative code set.


A long-lasting health condition.


The movement of fluid through the body in a regular course.


A medical facility that gives health care for patient in an area. 


Generally refers to cardiac arrest.


A state of prolonged unconsciousness.

Co-Morbid Conditions/Comorbidity

More than one disease or condition is present in the same person at the same time. Conditions described as comorbidities are often chronic or long-term conditions. Also called “multi-morbidity” or “multiple chronic conditions.”


Department of Health and Human Services

HHS administers many of the "social" programs at the federal level dealing with the health and welfare of the citizens of the United States. (It is the "parent" of CMS.)


The name for the health problem that you have.


Dialysis is a treatment that cleans your blood when your kidneys do not work. It gets rid of harmful wastes and extra salt and fluids that build up in your body. It also helps control blood pressure and helps your body keep the right amount of fluids. Dialysis treatments help you feel better and live longer, but they are not a cure for permanent kidney failure.


Division into two parts. 


For Social Security purposes, the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. Special rules apply for workers aged 55 or older whose disability is based on blindness. The law generally requires that a person be disabled continuously for five months before he or she can qualify for a disabled worker cash benefit. An additional 24 months is necessary to qualify under Medicare.


The inability to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.

Discharge Planning

A process used to decide what a patient needs for a smooth move from one level of care to another. This is done by a social worker or other health care professional. It includes moves from a hospital to a nursing home or to home care. Discharge planning may also include the services of home health agencies to help with the patient's home care.


To separate into pieces.

Disseminated Intravscular Coagulation

A serious disorder in which the proteins that control blood clotting become overactive.



Placed within the trachea.



A temporary increase in your body temperature, often due to an illness.


A break, usually in the bone.

Functional Independence

Functional Independence Measure (FIM) is an 18-item measurement tool used by health care practitioners to assess an individual's physical, psychological and social function. It is used to assess a patient's level of disability, especially in response to rehabilitation or a major medical intervention.



A serious condition where a loss of blood supply causes body tissue to die. 

Guillan-Barre Syndrome

A rare, autoimmune disorder in which a person's own imimune system damages the nerves, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.



A medical device used to stabilize the cervical spine after traumatic injuries to the neck, or after spine surgery.


Having a condition that markedly restricts one's ability to function physicallyy, mentally, or socially.

Home Health Agency

A public agency or private organization primarily engaged in providing skilled or paraprofessional home health care to individuals in out-of-hospital settings.


Idiopathic Neuropathy

Neuropathy is when nerve damage interferes with the function of the peripheral nervous system. When the cause can't be determined, it is referred to as idiopathic neuropathy.


The invasion and growth of germs in the body.

Inpatient Medical Rehabilitation

A highly specialized, carefully coordinated, intensive and individualized treatment program provided by inpatient rehabilitation hospitals and units that addresses the full range of medical, physical, cognitive, behavioral, social and vocational issues an individual may face.

Inpatient Therapy

The care of patients whose condition requires admission to a hospital. 

Intrathecal Hematoma

Bruising of the spinal canal.


Inserting a tube through the mouth and then into the airway.



Kidney Stones

Hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys.



This means a long-term care facility has met certain standards set by a state or local government agency.

Long-Term Care Hospital

Hospital-grade facilities for patients whose health is stable, but who still requires a high level of complex care and medical equipment to recover after their initial stay at an acute hospital.

Lumbar Puncture

A procedure where the healthcare provider inserts a needle into the space surrounding the spinal column to withdraw cerebrospinal fluid or inject medicine. 


Major Medical Complexity

A combination of multi-organ system involvement of chronic health condition(s) and functional limitations that requires high-level resources and use of medical technology.


A joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with low incomes and limited resources. Medicaid programs vary from state to state, but most health care costs are covered if you qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.


The federal health insurance program for: people 65 years of age and older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure with dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD).

Mortality Rate

The death rate often made explicit for a particular characteristic (e.g., gender, sex or specific cause of death). Mortality rate contains three essential elements: the number of people in a population exposed to the risk of death (denominator), a time factor, and the number of deaths occurring in the exposed population during a certain time period (the numerator).

Multiple Sclerosis

A potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord.



The death of most or all of the cells in an organ or tissue due to disease, injury, or failure of the blood supply.


A bundle of fibers that connect the nervous system with other parts of the system.


The branch that deals with problems affecting the nervous system.


Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists help people participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping people recovering from injury to regain skills and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. 

Occupational Therapy/Therapists

Help others participate in the things they want and need to do throught the therapeutic use of everyday activities. This is used to help people recovering from injury or providing support for older adults.


A measure of performance (or nonperformance) of a function or process as a result of treatment. In inpatient medical rehabilitation, these outcomes include length of stay, improvement of function, increase in life expectancy and decrease in mortality rate, and decrease in readmissions and time before readmission.

Outpatient Therapy

A course of treatment to support recovery and rehabilitation by integrating skills into their everyday lives.


Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition lasting more than six months that most often affects one limb (arm, leg, hand or foot), usually after an injury.


The loss of the ability to move some or all of your body.


An impairment in motor or sensory function of the lower extremities.

Peripheral Vessels

The part of the peripheral vascular system that consists of the veins and arteries not in the chest or abdomen.

Physical Therapist

A trained and licensed medical professional with experience in restoring physical function and mobility, maintaining physical function and promoting physical activity and proper function.


A person qualified to practice medicine.

Physician Assistant (PA)

A person who has two or more years of advanced training and has passed a special exam. A physician assistant works with a doctor and can do some of the things a doctor does.


An infection of one or both of the lungs caused by bacteria, viiruses, or fungi. 

Post-Acute Care

Rehabilitation services that patients receive after a stay in an acute care hospital.

Pre-Existing Condition

A health problem you had before the date that a new insurance policy starts.


The likely outcome or course of a disease. 


An artificial device that replaces a missing body part, which may be lost through trauma.


Any Medicare provider (e.g., hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health agency, outpatient physical therapy, comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility, end-stage renal disease facility, hospice, physician, non-physician provider, laboratory, supplier, etc.) providing medical services covered under Medicare Part B. Any organization, institution, or individual that provides health care services to Medicare beneficiaries. Physicians, ambulatory surgical centers and outpatient clinics are some of the providers of services covered under Medicare Part B.

Pulmonary Embolism

A blood clot that developes in a blood vessel in the body.



The large muscle at the font of the thigh that is divided into four portions and acts to extend the leg.


Paralysis from the neck down.



An admission to an acute care hospital within 30 days of discharge from the same or another acute care hospital.


Rehabilitative services are ordered by your doctor to help you recover from an illness or injury. These services are given by nurses and physical, occupational and speech therapists. Examples include working with a physical therapist to help you walk and with an occupational therapist to help you get dressed.


Revival of a patient from unconsciousness or apparent death.

Rotator Cuff

A collection of muscles and tendons that keep the ball of your upper-arm bone in your shoulder socket.



The body's extreme response to an infection. Sepsis is a life-threatening medical emergency that happens when you already have an infection that triggers a chain reaction through the body.

Skilled Nursing Facility

A facility that provides care to patients that need assistance treating and managing minor medical conditions.


A doctor who treats only certain parts of the body, certain health problems or certain age groups. For example, some doctors treat only heart problems.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work to prevent, assess, diagnose and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication and swallowing disorders in children and adults.

Spinal Cord

A column of nerve tissue that runs from the base of the skull down the center of the back. 

Staph Infection

Caused by staphylococcus bacteria, these germs are commonly found on the skin orr in the nose and can either be minor skin infections or life- threatening infections. 


To excite to activity or growth or to greater activity.


Occurs when a blockage or bleed of the blood vessels either interrupts or reduces the supply of blood to the brain.


A medical practitioner qualified to practice surgery.


A medical practice that treats injuries, diseases, and deformities by the physical removal, repaiir, or readjustment of organs and tissues, often involving cutting into the body.



The use of digital information and communication technologies to access health care services remotely and manage your health care. 


Professional services given to a patient through an interactive telecommunications system, including video conferencing, store and forward, remote patient monitoring and mobile health, by a practitioner at a distant site.


An individual specializing in the therapeutic medical treatment of impairment, injury, disease, or disorder.


Shortened form of tracheostomy, meaning a surgical procedure to create an opening through the neck into the trachea.


Something done to help with a health problem. For example, medicine and surgery are treatments.


Urinary Tract Infection

An infection in any part of your urinary system.



A preparation that is used to stimulate the body's immune response against diseases.


A device that mechanically helps pump oxygen into your body. 

Vocal Cords

Two bands of muscle tissue found in the voice box (larynx). 

Vocational Rehabilitation

The process of assisting an individual in the choice of or return to a suitable vocation. When necessary, assisting the patient to obtain training for such a vocation. Vocational rehabilitation can also mean to preparing an individual regardless of age, status (whether U.S. citizen or immigrant) or physical condition (disability other than ESRD) to cope emotionally, psychologically and physically with changing circumstances in life, including remaining at school or returning to school, work or work equivalent (homemaker).