What has cardiac rehabilitation looked like in the COVID-19 pandemic: Lessons learned for the future

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Progress in cardiovascular diseases


The global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic prompted widespread national shutdown, halting or dramatically reducing the delivery of non-essential outpatient services including cardiac rehabilitation (CR). Center-based CR services were closed for as few as two weeks to greater than one year and the uncertainty surrounding the duration of the lockdown phase prompted programs to consider programmatic adaptations that would allow for the safe and effective delivery of CR services. Among the actions taken to accommodate in person CR sessions included increasing the distance between exercise equipment and/or limiting the number of patients per session. Legislative approval of reimbursing telehealth or virtual services presented an opportunity to reach patients that may otherwise have not considered attending CR during or even before the pandemic. Additionally, the considerable range of symptoms and infection severity as well as the risk of developing long lasting, debilitating symptoms has complicated exercise recommendations. Important lessons from publications reporting findings from clinical settings have helped shape the way in which exercise is applied, with much more left to discover. The overarching aim of this paper is to review how programs adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and identify lessons learned that have positively influenced the future of CR delivery.

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ePub ahead of print