ACSM exercise physiologists work to better the health, fitness and quality of life for patients who are at high risk for or who are living with one or many chronic diseases. ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologists® (ACSM-EP®) are fitness professionals with an academic degree in exercise science, qualified to pursue a career in university, corporate, commercial, hospital and community settings. ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologists not only conduct complete physical assessments, they also are trained and trusted to interpret the results to prescribe appropriate, personalized exercise programs. ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologists® (ACSM-CEP®), using their exercise physiology degree and practical hands-on experience, are uniquely qualified to run medical (cardiac and pulmonary) and physiologic diagnostic laboratories or assist in the study of the physiology of human disease.
These professionals have functioned for years without the ability to bill for their essential clinical services. This has become apparent to me through the years that I have served as the medical director of the Duke Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. It became a more urgent issue as Duke began to establish our mobile, home-based cardiac rehabilitation program during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were stymied by the inability of our clinical exercise physiologists—the frontline providers of our cardiac rehabilitation program—to serve as the billing provider for our care. In addition, as a consequence of this deficiency, these outstanding members of our health care team do not have a direct career path.
Recognizing the importance of this issue, ACSM has created a task force to review and create a path forward that will allow clinical exercise physiologists and exercise physiologists to use their complete training to benefit their patients, their employers and the entire health care enterprise. I will chair the task force, and it will include members with a wide degree of expertise and experience in the field. Our goals are for exercise professionals to
- be recognized as Qualified Healthcare Practitioners (QHP);
- able to deliver exercise and healthy lifestyle counseling and supervision to patients (according to their scope of practice); and
- able to bill and be reimbursed for their services.
This may take years to achieve, but we are committed to the success of this enterprise.
William E. Kraus, M.D., FACSM, is a professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology Medicine and the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute. He is a clinician scientist with research interests in the use of exercise for favorable mediation of cardiometabolic risk; in the role of skeletal muscle adaptations in mediating that risk; on using molecular markers to personalized lifestyle medicine approaches to disease prevention and in the study of how we can use a better understanding of gene-environment interactions to focus preventive measures in cardiovascular medicine. Dr. Kraus served as ACSM’s 63rd president.