Minnesota Nursing magazine

Exercise covered

A breakthrough for less invasive, less expensive interventions
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Barb Schlaefer

In a rare move that was a long time coming, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the decision to provide coverage for supervised exercise to treat peripheral artery disease. The decision, which provides payment for up to 36 sessions of supervised exercise, cited research by Professor Diane Treat- Jacobson, PhD, RN, FAAN, as evidence supporting the change.

“There is definitely a pattern emerging over the past 10 to 15 years indicating that exercise can be helpful in managing chronic conditions,” Treat- Jacobson said. “It’s a breakthrough. Exercise therapy for people with PAD can improve mobility and reduce pain. The decision gives patients an alternative to more invasive and expensive procedures.”

For more than 20 years, Treat-Jacobson has led ground-breaking research on the effects of exercise on the painful and debilitating symptoms of PAD, which is a vascular disease restricting blood flow in leg muscles. Untreated, PAD can increase a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke.

“Exercise therapy for people with PAD can improve mobility and reduce pain. The decision gives patients an alternative to more invasive and expensive procedures.” – Professor Diane Treat- Jacobson, PhD, RN, FAAN

“In addition to her scientific contributions, Diane has been a tireless advocate for patients with peripheral artery disease by spreading information, working with multiple national societies and participating in the creation of guideline documents that harmonize the information about PAD,” said Joshua Beckman, MD, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University and past president of the Society for Vascular Medicine. “She is a national nurse leader in this field, doing more on all fronts than any other I know.”

Treat-Jacobson says the acknowledgement of exercise as a legitimate treatment option for those who suffer from PAD has been painstakingly slow in coming, but exciting nonetheless.

“Some would argue that insurance coverage for exercise is not necessary and that patients can do this on their own,” she said. “But in the case of PAD, walking can be very painful. There is a prescriptive science for exercising into the pain, stopping and starting again.”

News of the announcement has generated inquiries from Treat- Jacobson’s colleagues around the country on how to effectively implement supervised exercise programs to reduce PAD symptoms.

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Treat-Jacobson
Professor Diane Treat-Jacobson, PhD, RN, FAAN, discusses PAD with a patient during a screening in Fergus Falls.