Duke Endowment Funds UNC Schools of Nursing and Medicine to implement Home-Based Cardiac Rehabilitation Program


North Carolinians spent roughly $12.5 million a day in hospital charges related to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 2015. In that same year, the disease claimed the lives of 18,467 of the state’s citizens and hospitalized more than 100,120.

An interdisciplinary team of faculty from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing and School of Medicine is working to decrease those numbers with HeartHome, a two-year project recently funded by a $710,000 grant from The Duke Endowment, and combined matching funds from the Schools of Nursing and Medicine, UNC Health Care, and other groups.

HeartHome is a nurse-driven, home-based cardiac rehabilitation program offered in collaboration with Cardiology and designed to improve access to cardiac rehabilitation for underserved North Carolinians. Cardiac rehabilitation is a program shown to decrease the risk of subsequent heart attacks and CVD-related causes of death, benefit CVD patients’ overall health and quality of life, and improve associated organizational outcomes, such as patient readmissions and costs.

Despite the preponderance of evidence documenting the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation for CVD patients, fewer than 25 percent of those in need of cardiac rehabilitation enroll. Of those who do, women, racial and ethnic minorities, rural dwellers and those of low socioeconomic status are disproportionately underrepresented. HeartHomeaims to eliminate the barriers patients face by offering an innovative cardiac rehabilitation program in-home.

Partners in the HeartHome project include UNC Health Care and other groups, which will assist with technology and equipment needs, promote the project, and collaborate in the implementation of the home-based model. “HeartHome is a wonderful example of how the power of interdisciplinary and inter-organizational partnerships can be harnessed to improve the health of our patients, communities, and state” said Dr. Cheryl Jones, professor of nursing and principal investigator of HeartHome.

Ultimately, the HeartHome team aims to provide a model of care that can be replicated and adopted for use with other patient populations, and in other health care organizations. The model will help to ensure that more patients with CVD enroll in, adhere to, and realize the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation for their overall health. Achieving this outcome will likewise reduce hospital readmissions, emergency department visits, and CVD-related health care costs.

“This program has the potential to dramatically improve care for heart patients who are unable to access facility-based cardiac rehabilitation” said Dr. Sidney Smith Professor of Medicine/Cardiology, UNC and co-principal investigator of HeartHome.

Other members of the HeartHome team include School of Nursing faculty members, Drs. Jennifer Leeman and Mark Toles, and Project Manager, Ms. Mary Wanger.