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In this Your Healthy Family, we’re following up our story about UCHealth Memorial’s hybrid cardiac rehab program, which was brought online during the pandemic to provide patients with needed heart care.
But even as many COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, the at-home virtual program is proving beneficial, and patients like the convenience.
The virtual remote cardiac rehab sessions allow patients to get education, care, and coaching from a clinical exercise physiologist in the comfort of their homes.
Rajean Blomquist survived a massive heart attack in December of 2021 and is grateful to be alive. She has eagerly embraced every aspect of her recovery, including cardiac rehab.
Her rehab began with in-person therapy sessions at UCHealth’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Clinic at Printers Park Medical Plaza, on the south end of Colorado Springs.
Rajean says, “I am a social person so I enjoy going (in-person) and I will still go in person for some visits, and that’s one reason I like the program. I go in person once a month until I graduate.”
But for now, Rajean is able to do the majority of her rehab at home where her comfort levels soar. She also touts the benefits of these sessions, generally led by clinical exercise physiologist Zach Dust.
Rajean says, “One of the things I really like about the hybrid program is that it’s almost like I have my own personal trainer. Therefore, I feel a lot more comfortable asking questions; I have been known to ask a fair amount of questions about my health and different exercises. Because I feel like I’m getting that individualized training, Zach puts together exercises specifically knowing I want to work on certain things like my core strength, and that’s been great.”
Rajean says what’s also been great is not having to always make the 40-minute drive to class from her home in Monument to the south end of the Springs.
“With gas prices the way they are now, it’s definitely saving me money, which then saves me stress. One of the things I’m learning in my rehab is how to better manage my stress.”
Lower stress, lowers blood pressure and the ease of access for patients through virtual rehab sessions also lead to better patient compliance because they have fewer excuses not to participate.
Just like an in-person cardiac rehab session, a hybrid session begins with checking a patient's vitals. Rajean says sometimes after driving the 40 minutes to rehab in traffic, her blood pressure would go up and she would have to sit out part of the class.
“In PT at the beginning, they take our blood pressure and when I have been driving for 40 minutes my blood pressure is almost always higher than normal because of being in the car. It doesn’t matter if it was an easy drive, for me, it’s just being a defensive driver. Oftentimes I’ve had to sit out the (therapy) warm up because my blood pressure was too high, and I have noticed I have not had to do that here at my home."
Zach says patients in the program cite myriad benefits - from the convenience and better exercise compliance. “Hybrid therapy really offers those benefits. I hope in the future that insurance companies will see it as a big deal that not only is helping out with our COVID pandemic, but it’s also helping out with travel issues. When it comes to transportation, bad weather can be a big thing here in Colorado. When it snows here it seems like we cancel everything, but hybrid rehab doesn’t have to cancel because a patient can still do it from their home - so they have no excuses."
More adherence to at-home exercise may, in the long run, be the best medicine of all, says Zach. “I think exercise is the most underutilized medicine, and a lot of patients need to know that. If we think of 20 minutes of exercise as 20 mg of exercise, maybe a patient would see that way, and say I’m going to use that a little more. Then maybe we can talk to a patient’s doctors and figure out what medications we might be able to decrease because now we’re putting in something more natural that has no side effects. No side effects besides sweat and hard work, but it can be a hard thing."
Rajean has embraced the hard work and tells me she is grateful for the many benefits she is experiencing. “I feel different, and I look at things differently. I will ask myself, 'is that cupcake really worth it?' A couple of bites of the cupcake is nice and that’s how I’m modifying everything. We only get one life and I want to live it to its fullest. If I want to treat myself to something like one adult beverage I can treat myself and that’s fine. I just need to moderate some things and add exercise. That’s one of the things about my story I want to share. I am not somebody who sits idle all the time. I didn’t like going to the gym for exercise, I like walking and doing active things that don’t feel like exercise. But now my cardiac rehab is making me look at everything I do. I knew this before, but now I’m eating a little bit less, moving a little bit more, and making better choices. Now I’m just doing those things a lot more consistently.”
If you have questions about UCHealth Memorial’s hybrid cardiac rehab program, feel free to get in touch.
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