Foundation Funds Innovative Cardiac Rehabilitation Program
Monday, June 15, 2020
Thanks to the generosity of donors, The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital is providing funding for a study of an innovative, home-based cardiac rehabilitation (HCR) program that has the potential to reach more patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and revolutionize the way cardiac rehabilitation (CR) is prescribed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
The study, led by Michael W. Rich, MD, Washington University cardiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, will investigate the feasibility and effectiveness of delivering CR virtually to patients who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. This will limit their physical exposure to health care workers, patients and others within a medical facility and provide access to CR to more patients for the greater good of the community. Good. For everyone.
After a patient is hospitalized for a cardiac event such as a heart attack or heart surgery, CR is an essential component of recovery that supplies a customized plan for the patient’s return to health and daily life. The program brings together a team of physicians, nurses, exercise physiologists and dietitians who closely monitor heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, exercise tolerance and other medical conditions. CR has been shown to improve outcomes for patients, including an increased quality of life and decreased risk for future heart problems and mortality.
The spread of COVID-19 has caused CR programs to temporarily close at hospitals across the country, including the Heart Care Institute Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. This has left cardiac patients without crucial care for a prolonged period of time.
The pandemic has also led to an increased need for CR because some patients recovering from serious cases of COVID-19 have cardiac injury related to the disease. This presents an entirely new challenge to the field that could be addressed by HCR.
According to the research team, despite the clear benefits CR offers, only 20 to 25 percent of eligible patients actually participate. An even smaller proportion complete the program. Multiple factors contribute to this underutilization of CR, including logistical considerations such as limited access to rehabilitation programs in rural areas, transportation difficulties, and lack of time due to other commitments.
The program has potential to greatly expand the availability of CR to the large number of patients who could benefit but are unable to attend a traditional site-based program. Adapting CR to home-based care to meet the needs of both traditional cardiac patients and COVID-19 patients with cardiac injury is crucial to the health of the community.