"We evaluate and review all of our programs from time to time, and that is what is going on with the cardiac rehab program," Begley said.
The evaluation includes looking at the services that are provided, the numbers of patients and staff involved and the overall cost effectiveness of the program, she said.
"Our goal not only is to make sure our programs and services are financially feasible but also help as many patients as possible and represent the latest in methods and techniques," she said.
Begley said a trend in rehabilitation programs of all kinds has been toward a "holistic approach" that doesn't just focus on a particular condition but, instead, ties treatment, care and rehabilitation surrounding that condition to the patient's overall health and his or her lifestyle, with an eye toward making lifestyle changes that would improve the overall health.
Oster, a registered nurse who started the cardiac and pulmonary rehab program 12 years ago, said the program currently is staffed by two full-time registered nurses, one full-time licensed practical nurse and one part-time respiratory therapist.
Fifteen to 20 patients are in the program every month
On average, 15 to 20 patients are enrolled in the program every month, she said. For three months, each patient, hooked up to a heart monitor, uses various pieces of cardiovascular exercise equipment, including treadmills and rowing machines. During the exercise, a nurse observes the patient. Afterward, the nurse records the patient's performance and progress.
In addition, patients receive basic information about their cardiovascular systems and coronary disease and how to prevent heart attacks and strokes or how to take care of themselves following such events. They are given information about exercise and diet, and they also attend classes taught by dietitians, cardiac nurses and lifestyle counselors.
Rehab patients are periodically tested on the information they are given, and they conclude the program with a final written test and a six-minute walk to determine how far and how fast they can go during that time without experiencing problems.
"We now have the diagnostic ability to do heart catheterizations, and that has, at least indirectly, provided patients for our program," Oster said. "But if they start doing stents and other angioplasty procedures, that would create even more need to have follow-up cardiac care."
"The beauty, as well as a major benefit, of the rehab program is that it is close to home for so many people," he said. "It has been an integral part of post-procedure care in this area for years."