Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) is evolving to include both in-person and virtual delivery. Our objective was to compare, in CR patients, the association of in-person, hybrid, and virtual CR with change in performance on the 6-min walk test (6MWT) between enrollment and completion.
Patients enrolled in CR between October 22, 2019, and May 10, 2021, were categorized into in-person, hybrid, or virtual groups by number of in-person and virtual visits. All patients received individualized exercise training and health behavior counseling. Cardiac rehabilitation was delivered to patients in the hybrid and virtual cohorts using synchronous video exercise and/or asynchronous telephone visits. Measurements at CR enrollment and completion included the 6MWT, blood pressure (BP), depression, anxiety, waist-to-hip ratio, and cardiac self-efficacy.
Of 187 CR patients, 37/97 (38.1%) were in-person patients and 58/90 (64.4%) were hybrid/virtual patients (P = .001). Compared to in-person (51.5 ± 59.4 m) improvement in the 6MWT was similar in hybrid (63.4 ± 55.6; P = .46) and virtual (63.2 ± 59.6; P = .55) compared with in-person (51.5 ± 59.4). Hybrid and virtual patients experienced similar improvements in BP control and anxiety. Virtual patients experienced less improvement in depression symptoms. There were no statistically significant changes in waist-to-hip ratio or cardiac self-efficacy. Qualitative themes included the adaptability of virtual CR, importance of relationships between patients and CR staff, and need for training and organizational adjustments to adopt virtual CR.
Hybrid and virtual CR were associated with similar improvements in functional capacity to in-person. Virtual and hybrid CR have the potential to expand availability without compromising outcomes.