Cardiac Rehab Week: celebrating transitions to healthy lives

February 17, 2013

Happy Cardiac Rehabilitation Week from the Cardiopulmonary Team at Helen Hayes Hospital! This year, we celebrate more than 25 years of service to thousands of patients recovering from heart disease who we have cared for in our inpatient, outpatient and wellness programs, and more than 15 years of leadership service to the national cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation association, the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) (

Over the past decade, it has been gratifying to see how cardiac rehabilitation has become a mainstream treatment for heart disease, rather than just an added extra for patients and families who knew enough to ask to be referred. That is a result of research that shows that patients who participate in cardiac rehab not only feel better and can do more, but also live longer, compared to those who do not.

For example, recent research done at the Mayo Clinic showed that patients who participated in cardiac rehabilitation after coronary artery stenting were 40% more likely to be alive at five years. Other studies following heart attack or open heart surgery showed similar mortality benefits. That research has prompted the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) to strongly encourage medical professionals to refer patients to cardiac rehabilitation after cardiac events. However, despite this high level of recommendation, referral to and enrollment in cardiac rehabilitation remains relatively low, with less than 40% of eligible patients participating. (

Under-utilization of cardiac rehabilitation is a national healthcare performance issue and, as a result, several members the HHH Cardiopulmonary Rehab team have been working with AACVPR, ACC and AHA on how to best educate patients and professionals on the importance of following up acute care with a rehab program and how to promote referral to cardiac rehabilitation. I’m proud to say that our team members have demonstrated their commitment to excellence in the practice of cardiac rehabilitation through presentations at national, regional, and local meetings, participation in multi-organizational writing groups, and leadership on the AACVPR Board of Directors.

The Cardiopulmonary Team at Helen Hayes Hospital also recognizes the role that cardiac rehabilitation can play in helping patients transition from their acute illness to independence at home. On May 9, 2013, we will be sponsoring a conference at Helen Hayes Hospital which focuses on this important topic. The event will serve as a forum for healthcare professionals to learn about emerging changes in healthcare delivery and payment that can directly impact and improve their patients’ transitions from the hospital to home and back to a healthy lifestyle. In addition to exploring how cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation can facilitate care transitions, conference speakers will discuss national, state, and local demonstration projects designed to decrease re-admissions and improve patient safety during care transitions.

The conference will feature an impressive roster of speakers, including:

  • Dr. Jerry Salkowe, Vice President for Clinical Affairs, Healthcare Association of New York State
  • Ms. Margaret Leonard, Senior Vice President for Clinical Services, Hudson Health Plan and Past President of the Case Managers Society of America
  • Dr. James DeSimone, Director of Medical Staff Quality at Ellis Medicine and a recipient of a recent award from the Island Peer Review Organization for his work to improve care transitions
  • Ms. Ana Mola, Director of Care Transitions & Population Health Management at New York University Langone Medical Center and a member of the AACVPR Board of Directors.

I will also be presenting, along with my colleeague at HHH, Dr. Steven Lichtman, who is the immediate Past President of AACVPR. This day-long conference will be an excellent opportunity for healthcare professionals to network, brainstorm about common barriers and solutions to issues related to care transitions, and learn about local resources to help their patients safely transition to and remain happy and healthy at home.

During our team’s journey over the past 25 years, we have learned how cardiac rehabilitation is critical to a patient’s return to a healthy lifestyle, regardless of age, sex, diagnosis, or disability. We are proud to share our experience, enthusiasm, and knowledge as active members of not only our national associations, but also within the local healthcare community. We look forward to meeting others committed to safe, effective, post-acute care transitions during our conference in May.

Happy Cardiac Rehab Week and we look forward to seeing many of you at Helen Hayes Hospital on May 9! In the meantime, join us in spreading the message that cardiac rehabilitation not only saves lives, but makes people ultimately healthier and happier!

Marjorie King, MD FACC, MAACVPR

Director, Cardiac Services

Past President, AACVPR