Telehealth is here to stay but not without challenges: a consultation of cardiac rehabilitation clinicians during COVID-19 in Victoria, Australia

Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2022 Aug 29;21(6):548-558. doi: 10.1093/eurjcn/zvab118.


Aims: Delivery of cardiac rehabilitation (CR) was challenged during the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), due to government stay-at-home directives which restricted in-person programmes. The Australian state of Victoria experienced the longest and most severe COVID-19 restrictions and was in lockdown for ∼6 months of 2020. We aimed to explore (i) clinicians' experiences and perceptions and (ii) identify barriers and enablers, for delivering CR during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods and results: Victorian members of the Australian Cardiovascular Health and Rehabilitation Association (ACRA) were invited to attend an exploratory qualitative online consultation in November 2020. An inductive thematic analysis was undertaken, before deductively applying the Non-adoption, Abandonment, Scale-up, Spread, and Sustainability (NASSS) framework to identify barriers and enablers for technology adoption in CR. Thirty members participated in a 106-min consultation. Seventeen members who provided demographics represented multiple disciplines (nursing n = 13, exercise physiology n = 3, and physiotherapy n = 1) and geographical settings (metropolitan n = 10, regional n = 4, and rural n = 3). Four main themes were inductively identified: consequences of change; use of technology; capacity; and the way forward. The deductive NASSS analysis demonstrated the main challenges of continuing remotely delivered CR lie with adopters (staff, patients, and carers) and with organizations.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic expedited significant changes to CR delivery models. While clinicians are eager to retain technology-enabled delivery in addition to resuming in-person CR, it is now timely to review remote models of care, tools used and plan how they will be integrated with traditional in-person programmes.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cardiac rehabilitation; models of care; qualitative; telehealth; telerehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Telemedicine*
  • Victoria