Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) is central to improving outcomes for patients — but participation has, historically, been dismal. We know that following up a diagnosis or cardiac surgery with rehabilitation can reduce mortality, cardiac mortality, and re-hospitalizations while improving quality of life. Additionally, patients who participate in rehab have improved functional capacity and adhere better to medication protocols. Without this crucial follow-up care, 30% of the 935,000 Americans who have a coronary event each year will have a second event. Despite these stark statistics, fewer than 20% of eligible patients ever take advantage of CR.
Patients often say that the 8-12 weeks of CR is inconvenient, expensive, and generally not a great experience. However, the formulaic rehab programs — which often consist of simple exercises like walking on a treadmill and educational components — lend themselves well to at-home care.
Digital health startup Chanl Health recognized an opportunity to improve outcomes for cardiac patients by delivering at-home CR with the help of an app — and turned to Vessel Partners for help designing and delivering an app that addressed the needs of patients and clinicians. With well-established protocols for the rehab exercises and education already in place, our challenge was designing an easy-to-use app that patients would interact with regularly. As with every project, we took an iterative approach that allows us to marry patients’ needs and clinician workflows through regular feedback.
Creating an engaging app meant using our research-backed four-step process designed to encourage regular engagement and keep patients motivated. We started by breaking the CR protocol into small steps — allowing patients to look at the tasks for a specific day, or see them in the context of a weekly schedule.
“Vessel Partners’ attention to detail and focus on the science behind app engagement and utilization is amazing. We were able to work through them to understand our users, what motivated them or was a barrier to use. We haven’t been able to find a firm like Vessel Partners anywhere else.”
We also urged patients to think about their emotional goals as rewards for their hard work. Whether the motivation was to play with their grandchildren or remain independent, we designed the app to remind and reward patients about their end goal. This also required us to help providers better understand how to encourage patients.
To improve retention rates, we worked with providers to coach them on motivational techniques. To make this more scalable and automated, the app suggests motivational phrases to clinicians that can help reward patients for reaching new milestones and encourage them to work toward the next goal. Providers can edit the suggested messages — delivered via in-app notifications — to give a more personalized approach that keeps patients feeling connected.
The result of this approach is a home-based cardiac rehab program, Chanl Care App, that delivers quality care to more patients at a lower cost. Chanl partners with more than 50 hospitals to bring the app to their patients and has helped its client double enrollment in CR with approximately 80% of patients completing the program.
As part of our ongoing partnership with Chanl Health, Vessel continues to monitor app usage and user interactions — collecting data to inform future design updates and features. Already integrated with FitBit, future plans for the app include integrating with native health apps on smartphones to collect more data and enhance the overall user experience.
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