Health & Wellness

Pilot program for virtual cardiac rehab expands to new hospitals

While center-based cardiac rehab remains the standard of care, a virtual option could be appealing to some patients

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After a successful pilot, Endeavor Health is now expanding a virtual cardiac rehabilitation program to patients at more hospitals within its system.

“Now we feel comfortable, we feel prepared, and it's appropriate and necessary to expand this across the Endeavour system,” said Dr. Adam Silver, a cardiologist and medical director for the cardiac rehab program at Endeavor Health.

Joe Akers is one of Silver’s patients.

While traveling for work, Akers had a heart attack that led to stents being put in his heart.

After he returned to his home in the northern suburbs of Chicago, he went to an in-person cardiac rehab facility.

“We were fortunate to find one, but the capacity around the area was really tight,” Akers said.

But attending in-person sessions three times a week proved inconvenient for Akers.

“It was challenging. My schedule was not very flexible. I was still traveling quite a bit,” Akers said.

Akers was then offered a chance to take part in the pilot program for a virtual cardiac rehab program, a partnership between MOTIV and Endeavor Health.

“We've seen that adherence to home-based cardiac recovery programs is actually greater than adherence to facility-based cardiac rehab,” Silver said.

A kit was sent to Akers’ home, which included wearable technology, a specialized blood pressure cuff and resistance bands.

Akers was connected to Hannah Wright, a MOTIV coach based in Michigan, who helped him meet his fitness and nutrition goals.

“Not only are people improving physically, you know, a part of that is they're feeling stronger. Their endurance is really there,” Wright said.

Akers also was connected with Alisa Rubin, a licensed clinical social worker with MOTIV.

“Cardiac events can bring trauma with them or even bring up have trauma that maybe they haven't dealt with before,” Rubin said.

Akers had never participated in therapy before, but found it extremely helpful.

“It also allowed me to remove some roadblocks as I was trying to work on my health and nutrition with the right mindset to really cement some good habits,” Akers said.

Silver said that mind and body approach is essential to preventing another cardiac event, which is the goal of any cardiac rehab program.

“Patients want to have the confidence that it's okay to exercise and that it's safe. And we can help overcome that with this type of program,” Dr. Silver said.

The pilot program at Highland Park Hospital found other pluses too.

“Sixty percent of our patients went from having elevated blood pressure to controlled blood pressure, which, I honestly think, that's astonishing,” Silver said.

Akers has found similar success.

“Blood pressure's under control, going down. My activity levels way up,” Akers said.

Endeavor Health is now expanding the virtual program, offering it as an option to low and intermediate risk patients at Highland Park, Evanston and Swedish Hospitals, with plans to expand to Glenbrook’s Cardiovascular Institute when it opens in Glenview in the coming months.

While center-based cardiac rehab remains the standard of care, a virtual option could be appealing to some patients.

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