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Science and medicine have achieved great success when it comes to post-event rehabilitation and recovery. When people are unwell or have chronic conditions, staying engaged with prescribed plans for exercise, reducing stress, diet and nutrition can make all the difference the world.

Most of my patients have heart disease, still the number one killer in the U.S., and we know that a medically directed rehab program after a heart attack or surgery can prevent subsequent issues, reduce rehospitalizations and even avoid fatalities. These rehab plans are primarily focused on movement and exercise, as well as regaining basic living skills like getting dressed, preparing meals, or running errands.

Usually, the doctor refers the patient to a rehab facility located in hospitals and medical centers. But a huge majority DO NOT continue the prescribed rehab and recovery treatment after the first few weeks for myriad reasons including a geographically inconvenient location, or the inability to travel due to infirmity, immobility, expense or scheduling. Some have no support system at home to motivate and encourage them, let alone get them to an outpatient center. While the activity and the direct personal contact are critical for patients who are in recovery, they may also be dealing with feelings of anxiety and isolation.

How to make remote cardiac rehab work for your patients

For the last four years, I have been treating patients around the country through a remote, AI-driven customizable cardiac rehab program that can be used at home or anywhere for patients recovering from a heart attack or other coronary incident, as well as for those determined to be at risk and need preventive care, or prehab. More and more patients are connecting with doctors, nurses, and therapists through telemedicine. But unless someone is overseeing the patient’s engagement, monitoring their progress, entering that data, handling insurance billing…and eventually circling back to make modifications, this technology can’t truly be effective.

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Filling in many of the gaps of traditional healthcare, here are a few important things you want to look for in a remote or telehealth cardiac care exercise and activity program:

Remote cardiac rehab care.

  1. Be sure the program is covered by Medicare/Medicaid or commercial insurance and is HIPAA-compliant.
  2. You will want to know what monitoring devices are provided through the program, or if the patient will need to obtain these.
  3. The most effective program have will have a team of healthcare professionals behind it, and one particular care management supervisor who will be the ongoing contact for your patient.
  4. A detailed questionnaire, either in-app or conducted in person, should be the first step.
  5. Find out if the program and/or application will be customized to your patient’s particular fitness and strength levels.
  6. Ask if the program enables the primary physician to monitor and track your patient’s participation and progress in between medical appointments.

I’m able to guide my patients to perform various activities at home through the app once or twice a week.  Proprietary software takes in the data and then fine-tunes the treatment to create a truly customized plan tailored to that individual and their particular situation. No cookie-cutter care, which is particularly critical with patients who may have several comorbidities or be on medications for different issues.

Empowering your patients – and improving health outcomes

Using technology to impact healthcare — but never losing the “human touch” – is part of the global trend to empower patients, lower healthcare costs, provide equal access to treatment, and produce the best possible outcomes. Any member of the medical team can easily review patient progress or regression through an online dashboard, and we receive automated alerts that flag any difficulties the patient may be experiencing.

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With all the information at their fingertips, the team can quickly talk with the patient and consult with the primary doctor quickly. This is in stark contrast with the more traditional practice where problems may not be recognized until they’ve become more serious. At any point, the rehab team is seeing both the big picture and any small detail to provide the best outcomes for the patient.

We also integrate a more direct focus on prehab and improvement of physical health, diet, strength, and balance as well as social and mental focus.  This platform is currently designed for cardiac patients; moving forward, we expect to apply the program to work with metabolic disease, endocrine disorders, respiratory disease, or other chronic comorbidities and conditions. We have recently incorporated a treatment program for long-haul Covid recovery.

Nurses are painfully aware of the toll that heart disease exacts on the U.S. population. In this country, one person dies every 36 seconds from cardiovascular disease. As an FNP working with cardiac patients, I cannot understate the value of combining technology with patient education for rehab, or how gratifying it is to see improvements that drive compliance, leading to better health outcomes all around.

Jenny Spinks Martin, RN, MSN, FNP
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