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Study: Heart patients do better with coaching and support

Mar 05 2015

The same heart disease that puts people in the hospital also results in depression for one in four patients. Depressed heart patients face extra challenges to regain health and are more likely to end up back in the hospital. Aetna offers AbleTo’s Cardiac Forum program to help members overcome the behavioral and emotional challenges that often come with a heart condition. In a recent study, members completing the program were a third less likely to return to the hospital over a six-month period.

The study was published by The American Journal of Managed Care. It compares people completing AbleTo’s program to a similar group who did not. The results show participants benefitted from improved medical outcomes and lower costs, including 31 percent fewer hospital admissions and 48 percent fewer total days in the hospital.

“Depression, even sadness or anxiety, can be a barrier to recovering from a heart procedure if steps are not taken to prevent or manage it,” said Richard A. Feifer, M.D., M.P.H., FACP, national medical director and chief medical officer of National Accounts at Aetna. “Offering behavioral health support to our members who have experienced a cardiac event improves their resiliency and leads to better health overall.”

“AbleTo and Aetna have long recognized the need for more effective tools to help heart patients overcome emotional barriers to better health,” said Reena L. Pande, M.D., M.Sc., chief medical officer of AbleTo and practicing cardiologist. “This study proves AbleTo’s program helps people stay out of the hospital. That makes for better health at lower cost, a win-win.”

Most people with heart disease know they need to make changes to regain their strength and improve their health. But they don’t always know how to change their daily routine. AbleTo’s Cardiac Forum sessions are delivered remotely by phone or secure video with a licensed clinical social worker and a behavioral coach. Both are trained in best practices to help heart patients overcome the emotional hurdles that can make physical recovery challenging. Participants learn to work through normal emotions; adhere to recommended treatment plans; and engage in their care and recovery.

“This study is evidence of the important connection between physical and emotional health. We are committed to giving members the right support to get healthy more quickly and stay healthy, while avoiding additional hospital costs,” said Feifer, co-author of the study.

AbleTo offers 15 programs to Aetna commercial members to help manage the impacts of other medical conditions like diabetes, chronic pain, depression, and the emotional challenges that come with life events such as child birth.