With CMS’s new Cardiac Bundle, cardiac care (especially post-acute care), is the next service line to go under the microscope. As with total joint, variations in outcomes and costs are often seen in post-acute care so looking at how that care is delivered is key. For any bundle to be successful, engaging patients and ensuring their participation in follow up is a driver of success.
I have to admit, I haven’t read the bundle specs yet, just the news on the bundle. According to Becker’s Hospital Review’s “10 things to know about CMS’ new mandatory cardiac bundle”, the bundle includes provisions to test cardiac rehabilitation services, with 36 sessions available over 36 weeks. However, according to this article from NPR, although cardiac rehabilitation is proven to be effective, most people don’t participate. If you read through the comments on the NPR article (ignoring the trolls of course), you’ll start to see the reasons: cardiac rehabilitation care is built around the needs of the people providing the rehabilitation, not the patients.
From our experiences delivering post-acute care plans, as well as talking to payers and providers we’ve learned a few reasons why patients don’t follow up with their outpatient care:
- Distance: In cardiac cases, patients are taken to the closest hospital, but this may not be the closest to their home or work. In other post-acute scenarios, they may have gone to a center of excellence that is also at distance.
- Time commitment: These programs often require multiple days of treatment a week. Not everyone has the flexibility to take off work.
- Timing: Programs are usually offered during 9 to 5, to accommodate the needs of the providers. Patients might prefer evening or weekend programs. We talked to one provider that focuses on lower income patients. People in hourly wage jobs don’t get to choose when they take breaks and their breaks are usually 15 minutes, and maybe 30 minutes for lunch. It’s next to impossible for them to attend in-person sessions.
The NPR article keyed in on these within the one example of Kathryn Shiflett (a healthcare worker herself!) whose distance and work hours (4:30 AM – 3:00 PM) pose a significant barrier: “She lives an hour away and is about to start a new job. Cardiac rehab classes happen Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with sessions at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.”
While the bundles are definitely driving the right behavior in focusing on patient outcomes rather than procedures, they need to go further to promote patient-centered care. In this case, that should be testing new models like mobile health or community-based rehab programs that are adaptable to the unique needs of different patient groups.