How social media can make cardiac rehab more effective

Risk factors

24 Apr 2019

Cardiac rehabilitation is not effective because it is not reaching enough of the people it needs to reach – but social media might be the solution.

Although there is Class 1 evidence to back the effectiveness of cardiac rehabilitation programs, successful secondary prevention ultimately depends on patient’s awareness, willingness and capacity to make lifestyle change and engage in the required behaviours, Robyn Gallagher, a Professor of Nursing at the University of Sydney, told delegates attending the Amgen One meeting in Melbourne.

From this perspective, Prof. Gallagher says cardiac rehabilitation “is not effective because it is not reaching enough of the people it needs to reach”.

She showed data reflecting the poor participation rates, where only around a third of patients referred to cardiac rehab post-MI were attending at four weeks, and about half at six months.1

“Like many secondary prevention programs, poor participation in cardiac rehabilitation is primarily related to the way it is delivered,’ she said. ‘Fixed locations, limited times and inflexible methods of delivery limit participation.”

Social media provides an avenue for secondary prevention programs

According to Prof. Gallagher social media has advantages that make it a possible channel for providing secondary prevention programs: it has no limitations in location and time and offers multiple types of delivery.

It provides the opportunity for developing support communities, access to health information, and even access to health professional advice.

For cardiac patients, social media can provide ongoing motivation for behaviour change, since it allows an avenue to keep in touch with others who are going through the same issues. When groups are set up well, access to credible healthcare professional advice is another benefit.

Prof Gallagher emphasised, “Social media is not a technology, it’s a conversation. And it’s happening with or without us.” She urged doctors to become more involved in the conversation, even if it’s simply acknowledging that the patient is looking for information online, and to discuss this with them.

Prof. Gallagher explained that good online support communities currently exist and there was no need for individual physicians to develop their own groups. Well moderated sites include hearts4heart, patientslikeme, and sites such as the National Heart Foundation, British Heart Foundation, and American Heart Association.

“There are places available for patients that will support them now. You don’t need to create anything different.”


This article was sponsored by Amgen, which has no control over editorial content. The content is entirely independent and based on published studies and experts’ opinions, the views expressed are not necessarily those of Amgen.


  1. Soo Hoo SY et al. Predictors of cardiac rehabilitation attendance following primary percutaneous coronary intervention for ST-elevation myocardial infarction in Australia. Nurs Health Sci 2016;18(2):230–237.

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