During this year’s National Patient Education Week, I found myself reflecting on just how transformative the Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab (ICR) curriculum was in the cardiac rehab program I oversaw.

Back when I managed a traditional cardiac rehab, I felt we had a strong education component to our program.  We focused on many risk factors for cardiac disease and provided education to our patients once per week.  It wasn’t until we adopted Pritikin ICR that I realized what a difference a thorough education program makes for people navigating their heart disease recovery.

One of the things that sets Pritikin ICR apart is its focus on the three educational components of heart-healthy nutrition, exercise, and a healthy mind-set.  Each pillar is vital to a successful recovery and the long-term health of a person recovering from a cardiac event.  After completing the program, patients come away empowered with the practical tools and knowledge they need to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Given that ICR offers extended sessions (72), doubling the amount approved for traditional Cardiac Rehab (CR) (36), ICR offers something else we never seemed to have enough of - time.

Upon starting ICR, my team and I soon came to appreciate the extended amount of time we now had to educate our patients.  We were able to expand education from once a week per patient to every day.  We kept education opportunities interesting and informative by rotating modalities and topics daily.  We noticed an increase in patient engagement with the staff providing workshops, patients appreciated the variety of experts that presented information in the videos, and they felt encouraged when they could sample recipes prepared for them in the live cooking school demonstrations.

In addition to these group education sessions, my ICR team now had the time to sit down with each patient for individualized education.  These one-on-one education sessions were highly effective as we were better able to address individual patients’ needs.  The topics covered were varied to include specific medication management, diabetes management, goal setting, and home exercise.  These small meetings offered a great way for the staff to connect with each patient, provide clarity, and engage them for long-term success.

I was surprised by my team’s response to the conversion from traditional CR to ICR.  Prior to the change, some of my team members were a little nervous about the new education program and skeptical as to how engaged the patients would be.  After the change to ICR, my team was pleased with the success of the program and excited to be able to provide a high-quality program.  I noticed there was a new sense of pride amongst the team when providing education and speaking to peers within the hospital setting.

I have heard of many similar experiences from the ICR provider sites I now work with.  One site, Medical City Plano, shared the following patient story:

“Our very 1st patient to take part in ICR was a young man in his 30s with a diagnosis of valve repair.  We were skeptical that he was going to get much out of the education component of ICR, being young, relatively healthy, and fit. We presented the program and all the classes in a positive manner to him and all his classmates. To our surprise, he completed all 72 sessions and could not have been happier with the program. He stated that he learned so much from the program that will carry over with him for the rest of his life. He was equally complimentary of all aspects of education. We learned not to assume who would benefit from education!”

The greatest benefit of ICR was recognized among the patients that we served.  We started receiving positive comments after the very first education class and kept getting them day after day, month after month.  As patients started to graduate from ICR, I noticed 6 patients had lost 30-40 pounds.  We had patients report that their doctors had removed them from their blood pressure medicines.  I even received a letter from a physician stating that one of their patients, who had gone through ICR, no longer required their diabetes medicine.

Now that I get to work with ICR sites across Texas as an Account Manager, I hear many patient success stories and notes of appreciation for our educational content. Some of the ICR directors I work with shared the following:

  • I had a patient who states he is “addicted” to ice cream and has ice cream every evening. He stated the ice cream was the full-fat high-calorie kind. After making the Pritikin Banana Blueberry Ripple Ice Cream for class, the patient stated he has swapped his ice cream out for the Pritikin Banana Blueberry Ripple and has loved it, and it has satisfied his ice cream craving.
  • Had a patient who really started exercising on non-rehab days and changed his diet to Pritikin. He lost 30lbs. while in the program.
  • A patient stated “I enjoyed every bit of the education program.  Never boring!  The Patient Guidebook is also a big part of my life now.”
  • The educational portion of rehab was informative and certainly worth attending.  I especially learned from and enjoyed the cooking classes.

Patient education is vital for the long-term success of people recovering from a cardiac event.  Pritikin ICR is a great avenue to see these successes.  This National Patient Education Week, I’m especially grateful for the work we do in ensuring cardiac patients across the country receive approachable lifestyle education.  I enjoy seeing and hearing about the benefits our program provides to the patients and look forward to many more success stories in the future.