Video on New Cardiac Rehabilitation Program That Brings Care to Rural Veterans’ Homes

August 16, 2016

Video on New Cardiac Rehabilitation Program That Brings Care to Rural Veterans’ Homes

“I get to the point where I look forward to Joan calling me on Wednesday afternoons. You know three o’clock comes and I know I have to be near the phone and be ready for her call, and then I give her all my numbers. She’ll check with me to see if I have any pain, how the week went and so forth, which I find is good,” explained rural Veteran Oscar Bourbeau. Bourbeau participates in a new home-based cardiac rehabilitation program offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Scientific studies show that people who complete a cardiac rehabilitation program following a heart attack or bypass surgery can increase their life expectancy by up to five years, and have:

  • 27 percent lower cardiac death rates,
  • 25 percent fewer fatal heart attacks, and
  • An improved quality of life.

To learn more about the expanding program, watch the three minute “Home-Based Cardiac Care for Rural Veterans” video at

Cardiac rehabilitation occurs in three phases. Phase 1 begins during inpatient hospitalization under physician management. Phase 2 is a medically supervised outpatient program that begins following discharge to slow or even reverse the progression of the underlying hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to plaque. Phase 3 is a lifetime maintenance program with periodic follow-up.

Rural Veteran patient participation in sustained Phase 2 rehabilitation is a challenge due to limited transportation options, geographic barriers and lack of proximity to specialized cardiac facilities. To reduce these Veterans’ barriers to care, VA piloted a home-based cardiac rehabilitation program which recently earned the distinction of being a VA Office of Rural Health (ORH) Rural Promising Practice, and is being rolled out nationwide due to patients’ health outcomes and satisfaction.

This Rural Promising Practice enables Veteran patients to first meet in-person with a specialist to safely learn rehabilitation exercises, with subsequent sessions conducted at home. This model eliminates the need to travel multiple times a week to a rehabilitation facility for a sustained time frame, and enables patients to tailor the location and schedule of their ongoing 30-minute rehabilitation exercise sessions. Regularly scheduled phone calls with the rehabilitation specialist are dedicated to review curriculum that addresses risk factors, such as smoking cessation and proper nutrition. Other discussions focus on exercise, medication adherence and stress management.

“The weekly calls are very beneficial because I have a plan and goals that really allow me to focus on getting my health back on track,” stated program participant and rural Veteran Richard Howe.

Joan Walsh, a program nurse at Manchester VA Medical Center explained, “I’ve had some Veterans say I’m the devil on the shoulder or others you know, say I’m the angel on the shoulder.” She added, “I hold them accountable for them taking control of their health, and making it better. I’m very proud of the Veterans and their dedication to this program, and to making their lives healthy.”

To evaluate the success of a 12-week remote, home-based Phase 2 cardiac rehabilitation program compared to a traditional on-site program, researchers: reviewed its reach, effectiveness and implementation; compared clinical measures; and compared cost data. Results showed both health outcomes and costs were comparable with no negative impacts from remote care. In fact, rural Veteran patients who used home-based rehabilitation reported higher levels of satisfaction and were more likely to complete the program.

The Office of Rural Health oversees Rural Promising Practices as part of its portfolio of enterprise-wide initiatives. These 40+ initiatives help increase access to care for the 3 million Veterans living in rural communities who rely on VA for health care. To learn more, visit or email