Case Study

Ascension Launches Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit in Six Months

Engagement with Guidehouse assisted Ascension Florida & Gulf Coast in navigating a complex application process under a tight timeline.


In 2020, leaders at Ascension Florida & Gulf Coast determined there was a strategic need for inpatient rehabilitation services in the Jacksonville, Fla., market.

Ascension St. Vincent’s Southside Hospital, a 309-bed facility that is the oldest private hospital in Florida, provides advanced specialty care, including orthopedic and spine surgery. The hospital serves a growing and increasingly high-needs population, with a higher proportion of patients with complex and severe health problems than any other hospital in the Jacksonville area.

Ascension’s leaders believed the needs of the community would be best served by opening an inpatient rehabilitation unit at St. Vincent’s Southside to meet the needs of the metropolitan area, as well as vacationers who wished to have their rehabilitative needs met in Jacksonville. Leaders set a goal of opening the unit in just six months — an ambitious timeline for meeting regulatory requirements, completing construction, and hiring staff — with a proposed go-live date of July 1, 2022.



Ascension chose Guidehouse as its advisor for helping to achieve an early completion and licensure date for the inpatient rehabilitation unit at St. Vincent’s Southside, based on the consultancy’s extensive experience in the inpatient rehabilitation facility (IRF) space.


“We could not have done this without Guidehouse’s extensive experience in the inpatient rehabilitation space. With their help, we navigated regulatory requirements and established the right relationships to achieve an early licensure date for our IRF unit. We’re grateful for Guidehouse’s leadership, which helped position us to provide high-quality inpatient rehabilitative care for our community.” 

— Susan Cornejo, Chief Operating Officer, Ascension Florida & Gulf Coast



Ascension’s leaders worked with Guidehouse to actively engage key regulatory agencies — from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration — as well as First Coast Service Options, a Medicare administrative contractor, in securing the necessary approvals and licensure. They also established a cross-disciplinary team comprised of representatives from facility planning, clinical operations, staffing, IT, quality assurance, and revenue cycle to determine how to best facilitate rapid IRF planning, construction, and development. The goal: to ensure high-quality care, seamless, sustainable operations, and a best-in-class experience for patients and team members.

In conjunction with building strong relationships for a smooth regulatory and licensure process, the team created an onboarding program for new personnel, identifying key IRF training programs for all members of the inpatient rehabilitation team, including existing key leaders at St. Vincent’s Southside. The hospital also targeted and recruited personnel to fill key roles on the team.

To support high-quality, evidence-based care, St. Vincent’s Southside initiated a clinical process-mapping exercise to understand how care could most effectively be provided and where opportunities for integration and tech-enabled assistance existed. Guidehouse advised the team on IRF-specific quality and outcomes management initiatives, as well as ways to leverage technology to monitor key quality metrics.

No IRF initiative can survive without strong support from the revenue cycle team and favorable payer contracts. Hospital leaders sought insight from Guidehouse on ways to approach payer rate considerations and collaborations, as well as develop the revenue cycle expertise needed to optimize revenue.



With Guidehouse’s help, St. Vincent’s Southside obtained IRF licensure through CMS, and Medicare prospective payment system exemption status in less than six months. In doing so, St. Vincent’s Southside successfully opened the first inpatient rehabilitation unit to serve Jacksonville and the surrounding communities.

Today, St. Vincent’s Southside is projected to achieve a return on investment for its inpatient rehabilitation unit within four years. The new unit allows the hospital to fulfill its mission and drive enhanced access to care and satisfaction for those it serves.

“Guidehouse synchronized all the steps needed to open our inpatient rehabilitation unit by the start of the fiscal year and worked closely with our cross-disciplinary team to develop all aspects of the program,” said Susan Cornejo, Chief Operating Officer, Ascension Florida & Gulf Coast. “We couldn’t have opened this unit within an aggressive timeline without the Guidehouse team.”

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