As the pandemic continues, we’re reminded of the impact COVID-19 has had on the healthcare industry. From hospital staff being overworked, under-staffed, stressed-out, and exhausted, to delayed elective procedures and vaccine mandates, hospitals continue to do all they can to provide the best care possible under very trying conditions.

Outpatient cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programs haven’t been immune from the impact of the virus either. Some have been temporarily shut down so that CR staff could be re-deployed to other areas of the hospital while others have experienced reduced patient volumes as there has been increased reluctance/anxiety to visit the CR department. As such, cardiac rehab programs across the board have experienced a significant toll that has affected both personnel and their bottom line.

Yet, despite all these challenges, Pritikin ICR (Intensive Cardiac Rehab) continued its growth trend through 2021. Pritikin ICR expanded from 72 contracted programs at the end of 2020 to 109 currently – that's a 51% increase!

It goes without saying that this has been an exciting time for our company. In fact, when I started in August 2018, the Pritikin ICR program was only taught in 24 hospitals. In contrast, we currently have 74 open, with new ones opening monthly.

How have we managed to thrive during an otherwise challenging time within the healthcare field?

Before we answer how we have grown, I’d like to first review exactly what sets intensive cardiac rehab apart. Simply put, Pritikin ICR is a Medicare-approved program that includes 72 reimbursable patient sessions focusing on three key pillars: exercise, nutrition, and healthy-mindset. This far exceeds traditional CR which is limited to only 36 sessions focused primarily on exercise. With Pritikin ICR, a patient benefits from exercise and heart-healthy lifestyle education during each visit.

Now that you understand the main differences between traditional CR and Pritikin ICR, I can address just how we've managed such a successful year. First things first, it seems like the word is out! Cardiac Rehab is a tight network of professionals. As more programs across the U.S. have partnered with Pritikin ICR, we have noticed an increased understanding and awareness of the benefits of ICR. Existing programs are always our best spokespeople! Cardiac rehab teams who have worked with the Pritikin ICR program love the program for various reasons.

Clinicians appreciate the program because it takes a patient-friendly approach to lifestyle change and because, simply stated, Pritikin ICR is effective. With double the number of sessions, Pritikin ICR clinicians enjoy more touchpoints and coaching opportunities with patients. More time with patients making drastic improvements tends to increase employee satisfaction. Just as staff experiences are overwhelmingly positive, patient experiences are just as encouraging.

A white board full of patient testimonials written in colorful marker shared with us by a site offering the Pritikin ICR program.

Pritikin’s goal is to meet every patient wherever they are in their cardiac rehab journey, whether they’re ready to jump in immediately by making major lifestyle changes or, whether they choose to take smaller, gradual steps towards improving their health. Because intensive cardiac rehab augments exercise with education during each visit, patients are far more empowered to make lasting health improvements. As they move through the program, patients express that they continue to feel better as they apply what they’ve learned. An added benefit is that patients become part of a community as they go through the program with others.

One of the reasons the Pritikin ICR program is so appreciated is our flexibility. Our dedicated staff works closely with each partner to individualize program implementation to align with their unique needs such as coordinating staffing, scheduling, education space, and managing patient volumes. We also offer a dynamic virtual platform which enables ICR facilities to offer hybrid and all-remote programs to reach outlying patient populations. Additionally, the program is financially sustainable.

With twice the number of billable sessions, programs can experience significant revenue growth without adding much to their overhead costs. While most CR programs tend to break-even (at best), Pritikin ICR programs are much more viable and often have strong profit margins. Another important note is that reimbursement is roughly the same amount regardless of place of service (hospital on-campus “OPPS Rate” or off-campus clinic “MPFS Rate”).

If you’d like to learn more about ICR, we’d love to hear from you! Please complete our interest form and our business development team will work with you to see how Pritikin ICR can improve your continuum of care.

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Keep a look out for upcoming job postings if you are interested in joining the growing Pritikin ICR team.