Bob Dylan had a song entitled The Times They Are A-Changin. Never has that felt truer in cardiac rehabilitation. Insurance regulations, administrative expectations, and limited resources make delivering cardiac rehabilitation very challenging. As healthcare changes, there are some things that stay constant. I want to share two simple themes that will help your program thrive in times of uncertainty and change. These are things that have served me and my program well over the years.
THE FIRST WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR CARDIAC REHAB PROGRAM IS TO CONSIDER IS THE PEOPLE ON YOUR TEAM
I am not referring to a specific ratio of academic backgrounds (e.g. nurses, clinical exercise physiologists, etc.). What I am referring to is the type of energy each person brings to work on a daily basis. Do they have passion? Are they fun to be around? Do they have an energy that inspires patients and coworkers? Patients can see and feel this type of energy and it makes a remarkable difference in their experience. Your patients will judge you and your team’s competence based on how you make them feel. Make them feel special and it will keep them coming back. Remember this important truth: people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. That statement goes far beyond the words we say.
THE SECOND WAY TO IMPROVE CARDIAC REHAB PROGRAM IS TO CONSIDER IS THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE
We all are asked to do more with fewer resources these days. Moving from one task to another at a rapid pace seems to be the new normal. However, we must stop and think how this might be perceived by our patients. For example, many of my patients have never participated in structured exercise and they certainly have never been inside a medical fitness facility. The environment we deliver our services is very intimidating for some of our patients. The last thing we need to do is place them on a piece of exercise equipment and leave them until their exercise time expires. That is a cardinal sin, which sends a nonverbal message we do not care. All we have to do is be in the moment with our patients. This is achieved by talking, smiling, and discovering commonalities they are willing to discuss. Doing all these things help ease patient anxiety and potentially improves compliance. Remember that our patients attend cardiac rehabilitation for more than just physiological benefits.
I believe cardiac rehabilitation program success is linked to the people we have on our teams and the patient experience. As healthcare continues to evolve, we must not lose sight of the simple things our patients expect to see. We must remember to take a brief moment and think what it would be like to walk in their shoes. A rule to live by: It is hard to go wrong when we put our patients first. Great team members will attract more patients. An awesome patient experience will attract more patients and spread throughout your community. This combination can help your program thrive!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ash Walker is the Manager of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Southeastern Health located in Lumberton, North Carolina. He has 16 years of experience working in the medical fitness field and is the current North Carolina Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Association (NCCRA) President. Additionally, he is a fellow of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR), and is a current board member serving in the position of Director At Large. Ash has passion for helping other professionals in the field by sharing his experiences via writing and public speaking. He can be reached at 910-738-5403; option 3 or firstname.lastname@example.org.