More than 100 heart patients across the west have reaped the benefits of an innovative digital cardiovascular disease prevention and recovery program developed by the Croí Heart Disease and Stroke Charity in Galway last year .
This according to figures compiled for the Croí MySláinte scheme, which were presented to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, as he officially opened its virtual launch at an event attended by stakeholders last week.
The program, funded by the government’s 2019 Sláintecare Integration Fund, had to be delivered virtually due to restrictions on traditional healthcare delivery imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Croí’s pivot to virtual broadcasting involved the creation of a newly developed interactive platform, which allowed participants to access the program from the comfort and safety of their homes, including access to videos pre-recorded videos, resources and links to weekly live Zoom sessions.
A total of 105 people, who had experienced a cardiac event such as a heart attack, chose to participate in the initiative.
The participants were aged between 35 and 84 and came from heart centers in the west of Ireland, including Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Limerick and Donegal.
After a total of 423 virtual consultations over a twelve-week period, a series of health improvements resulted for those involved.
These saw physical activity levels increase almost sixfold; improved blood pressure control from 24% to 68%; and achievement of LDL cholesterol goals increased from 14% to 41%.
More than half of participants (57%) lost more than 2% of their body weight, with almost a quarter (23%) losing 5% or more – and participants’ anxiety and depression levels increased been reduced by more than half.
Many participants were also living with other health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, chronic kidney disease and cancer, which also means broader benefits for their other conditions.
The program, supervised by a consultant cardiologist, was delivered by a specialized interdisciplinary health team consisting of a cardiology nurse prescriber, a physiotherapist and a dietitian.
Croí Head of Health Programmes, Dr Lisa Hynes, has revealed that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability in Ireland – and globally.
“We know that every year about 10,000 people die here from cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular disease,” she said.
“Cardiac rehabilitation programs, which are traditionally delivered face-to-face, have been proven to reduce cardiovascular death and disability.
“Through the Croí MySláinte virtual program, we are proud to have developed a new way of providing this care with clinical results comparable to those seen in traditional face-to-face programs,” she added.
Croí CEO Neil Johnson said the results of the program speak for themselves.
“Like so many other post-pandemic changes, I believe that the future delivery of health care will never be the same,” he said.
“I believe the future of heart health programs like this must involve a hybrid approach of in-person and virtual delivery.
“With Croí MySláinte, we have seen that age is not a barrier to accessing or participating in an online digital program. With help, people of all ages can engage once they have the basics of a device and access to broadband. Our program has had over 70% attendance and over 80% retention, with participants describing the program as “life changing” and “saving lives”.
“We know that in pre-pandemic Ireland we historically had low uptake of cardiovascular disease prevention and rehabilitation programmes.
“Providing a combination of online and in-person approaches means we can improve adoption levels and meet patient needs,” he added.
For anyone concerned about their heart health or seeking information on heart disease or stroke, contact the Croí Health Team on 091 544310 or visit www.croi.ie