Expanding Cardiac Rehab and Addressing RPM Technology for Heart Health

By Jiang Li, CEO, Vivalink
LinkedIn: Jiang L
X: @Viva_LNK

Cardiac rehabilitation is integral to heart health recovery and management, playing a pivotal role in restoring patients to optimal well-being and minimizing the risk of future cardiovascular complications, particularly after a cardiac event like a heart attack. However, the conventional in-clinic rehabilitation model faces a multitude of challenges, from accessibility to patient preferences and overall operational efficiency.

As a result, cardiac rehabilitation programs have grappled with underutilization, as participation rates fluctuate based on geographical region and healthcare system. On average, fewer than 20% of eligible patients take part in cardiac rehabilitation, and even when referred, just 34% enroll. Taking steps to increase awareness and improve accessibility of cardiac rehabilitation services is crucial.

Nonetheless, the landscape of cardiac rehabilitation has undergone a notable shift in recent years. While traditionally grounded in clinic-based settings, cardiac rehabilitation has transitioned into the digital era. Fueling the shift is the widespread adoption of Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) technology.

Through the use of RPM, cardiac rehabilitation has expanded beyond traditional clinic settings and addressed patient participation challenges. By introducing home-based rehabilitation options, RPM not only amplifies patient engagement and adherence but also customizes rehabilitation programs to cater to individual needs. As a result, providers can bridge participation gaps and improve cardiovascular health outcomes.

To assess the role of RPM in cardiac rehabilitation, Vivalink surveyed over 200 clinicians, focusing on the adoption of the technology and its impact in both clinic and home-based rehabilitation settings. The results revealed a substantial integration of RPM technologies. Notably, 93% of clinicians currently utilize RPM technologies across all aspects of cardiac rehab, aligning with the growing preference for home-based care within the field.

Prominent shift toward home-based cardiac rehabilitation

Among the more notable findings from the survey is the substantial shift toward home-based cardiac rehabilitation. In fact, 68% of clinicians reported engaging in some level of home-based cardiac rehab, marking a clear departure from the conventional clinic-based model. Even more striking, 29% of clinicians are conducting an equal or greater number of home-based sessions than their clinic-based counterparts. The shift highlights a distinct preference for remote care settings, where patients can access rehabilitation from the comfort and convenience of their homes.

The rapid adoption of RPM technology

The last two years have witnessed an increase in the adoption of RPM technology, with 57% of clinicians incorporating it into home-based cardiac rehab programs. The uptick in RPM utilization is particularly significant, given its acceleration in the post-pandemic era. As healthcare systems continue to adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic, the integration of RPM technology has proven essential in providing continuous care to cardiac patients, highlighting the adaptability and innovation within the field.

Patient-centric approach

A significant shift in patient care preferences is also evident, with 56% of clinicians favoring home-based cardiac rehabilitation over traditional clinic-based alternatives. The change reflects a more patient-centric approach, acknowledging the importance of catering to individual patient needs and preferences. Patients, too, have embraced the transition, as it aligns with their desire for flexible and personalized care options.

A study involving more than 100 adults with coronary heart disease compared the efficacy of remotely monitored rehabilitation through smartphone and web apps to traditional center-based programs. The findings showed that remote cardiac rehabilitation offers a cost-effective and efficient alternative that can increase reach and satisfy participant preferences.

Enhanced patient adherence and outcomes

One of the most encouraging findings is the reported increase in patient adherence, observed by 53% of clinicians since integrating RPM technology. Remote care has the potential not only to engage patients but also to improve their health outcomes.

Of the clinicians surveyed, 47% identified cost as a significant factor contributing to the rise in patient adherence to home-based cardiac rehab. Additionally, 42% pointed to privacy considerations, while 32% attributed the increase to the personalized treatment provided.

The ability to closely monitor patient progress, provide timely support, and customize rehabilitation plans encourages patients to be more committed to their recovery journey, ultimately leading to better health results.

Managing critical cardiac conditions

Post-myocardial infarction (post-MI), more commonly known as a heart attack, emerged as one of the most common conditions clinicians used home-based cardiac rehab for, underscoring the vital role of remote care in managing critical cardiac conditions. In particular, 50% of clinicians rely on RPM for post-MI cases. This marks a noticeable increase compared to a similar survey conducted in 2022, in which 37% of clinicians incorporated RPM in cases involving post-MI patients.

It’s clear remote care plays a crucial role in managing critical cardiac conditions. By providing immediate access to rehabilitation and continuous monitoring, RPM technology has become an indispensable tool in ensuring the well-being of patients who have experienced severe cardiac events.

The survey’s findings collectively illustrate the evolving landscape of cardiac rehabilitation. They highlight the growing preference for home-based care, the impact of RPM technology, and the pivotal shift toward patient-centric, remote care settings that hold the promise of enhanced patient engagement and improved health outcomes.