How Geisinger leverages virtual cardiac recovery to improve patient access and outcomes — 4 insights

Although traditional in-person cardiac rehabilitation programs improve outcomes, only 4% of eligible patients complete a cardiac rehab program despite its life saving benefits. Virtual programs can improve cardiac care and long-term recovery.

During a webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Recora, three cardiac experts discussed the challenges of existing cardiac rehab programs and described how virtual programs can boost participation and improve outcomes. Panelists were:

  • George Ruiz, MD, system chief of cardiology and vice chair, Heart & Vascular Institute, Geisinger (Danville, Pa.)
  • Ed Wu, MD, co-founder and chief medical officer, Recora
  • Alex Zimmerman, vice president, Heart & Vascular Institute, Geisinger

Four insights:

  1. Cardiac rehabilitation is proven to work. The typical cardiac rehab program adds five years to the life expectancy of patients who complete the program. Cardiac rehab can reduce mortality by 30 percent and readmissions by up to 40 percent, according to research cited by Dr. Wu.
  1. Cardiac care gaps result from a lack of engagement.  "Only 4 percent of eligible cardiac patients complete a cardiac rehabilitation program, resulting in lost follow-up." Dr. Wu said.

Barriers to participation: many patients do not live near or can't get into a cardiac rehab program, 30 percent of high-risk heart disease patients do not have a cardiologist to follow their care and recommend cardiac rehab and 40 percent of heart disease patients are not loyal to or connected with a local hospital or health system, according to Dr. Wu.

  1. Geisinger adopted Recora’s Cardiac Recovery Program, resulting in a five-fold increase in patient engagement. Geisinger is in a geography where travel to its six cardiac rehab centers is difficult. During the pandemic, access to cardiac rehab was eliminated as these facilities temporarily suspended services.

To increase engagement in cardiac care, Geisinger evaluated virtual cardiac recovery programs. Geisinger considered building its own program but decided to partner. "Recora gave us a solution that could be applied across multiple lines of business," Mr. Zimmerman said.

Recora’s Cardiac Recovery Program includes: 1) a multidisciplinary care team; 2) a recovery kit using a smart tablet; and 3) the recovery program that delivers the core tenets of cardiac rehab in an immersive environment. "A virtual interface helps patients understand how mobility, food choices and risk factor management are linked to cardiac health," Dr. Ruiz said.

"Previously, at any given time, we had 80 to 90 patients in our cardiac rehab program across six brick-and-mortar centers," Mr. Zimmerman said. "At present, we have over 400 patients [using the virtual program] . . . We've been blown away with engagement on this virtual platform."

  1. Recora's turnkey solution has boosted participation and improved outcomes. Recora offers an internet-enabled recovery kit tablet with everything pre-installed. "It's a fully CMS-compliant program, and is convenient and flexible," Dr. Wu said. Patients can use it at home, work or when traveling. "It's an individualized treatment program with emotional and motivational support sessions that support clinical and lifestyle issues," he said. Results include:
  • 87 percent of patients complete the program vs the national average of 26 percent.
  • 85 percent exercise more than 100 minutes a week.
  • 94 percent adhere to cardiac medication regimens.
  • Hospital readmission rates are 11 percent at six months versus national averages of 43 percent for CHF patients.

As Geisinger's experience has shown, solutions like Recora can increase cardiac care quality, access, and engagement.  By addressing the whole-person needs of patients at home, a health system can develop long-term patient engagement, improved referrals, and higher retention rates. 

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