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Jun 17, 2019

Bringing Cardiac Rehabilitation Out of Clinics and Into Homes

A scientific statement explores the potential of at-home cardiac rehab programs.

A more convenient wave of cardiac rehab is on the horizon for patients recovering from heart events and procedures, based on a scientific statement recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The statement was released by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology and explores the potential of offering remote cardiac rehab services in the comfort of patients’ homes.

Cardiac rehab is a comprehensive program recommended for patients with heart disease, heart failure or heart procedures. It generally includes exercise training, patient education and support—all with the goal of empowering patients to take control of their health.

While cardiac rehab is strongly recommended in many heart patients, it’s largely underutilized in the United States. Studies continue to show that cardiac rehab helps improve outcomes and quality of life in heart patients, yet less than 20 percent of heart patients who qualify for cardiac rehab actually participate in a program. Unfortunately, that means fewer patients are getting continued care when they need it most.

The good news is that an at-home program may soon be available for heart patients, based on the recent statement.

As authors explain, home-based cardiac rehab is similar to traditional forms of cardiac rehab but delivers it in a more convenient way. Like traditional rehab, it includes a combination of exercise training, education and coaching to help patients recover and adopt healthier habits. The key messages are also the same, including eating healthy, staying active, managing stress, quitting smoking and taking medications as directed.

The difference, however, is that patients can get active and learn about these new behaviors from the comfort of their own home. With home-based cardiac rehab, patients receive counseling remotely—either over the phone, by text message or email, or through an online portal. Exercise training programs are also remotely monitored to help patients safely increase their activity levels.

Clinical trials suggest that at-home programming is just as effective as cardiac rehab delivered in a medically supervised facility. Authors also note that home-based cardiac rehab has already been implemented in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada, demonstrating its feasibility.

As a result, experts believe that home-based programming is a reasonable option for patients who can’t attend a traditional cardiac rehab program. However, authors note that insurance companies would need to update policies to allow for reimbursement of this new wave of programming. Experts also encourage additional research on at-home programs, especially in higher risk patients, as safety remains a primary concern while patients recover and learn to manage their conditions.

Read the statement in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is cardiac rehabilitation?
  • Cardiac rehabilitation (cardiac rehab) is a program designed to help patients recover from a heart event and build the foundation for a healthier future. Cardiac rehab typically involves an individualized exercise and lifestyle modification program, and provides a support system to help patients take control of risk factors, monitor progress, communicate with doctors, and adopt lifelong healthy behaviors. Services are provided by a team of nurses, exercise specialists, dieticians and other health care professionals led by a physician.  Cardiac rehab has been shown to improve both outcomes and better quality of life for patients after a heart event.

  • Who can benefit from cardiac rehabilitation?
  • Cardiac rehabilitation is recommended for many different types of heart patients, including those with heart disease, heart failure, and a history of heart attack. Cardiac rehab is also beneficial for patients after heart procedures like open heart surgery and percutaneous coronary intervention. Through a combination of exercise, education and support, cardiac rehab can help patients improve their health and prevent future health problems.

Featured Video

Cardiac rehabilitation is a proven way for heart patients to regain strength and improve their overall health.


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Infographic: Cardiac Rehab