Study: Patients in Cardiac Rehab Are Older, Less Healthy, and Have More Diverse Needs Than Patients 20 Years Ago

The use of cardiac rehabilitation (CR) has grown over time, but with that growth comes changes to patient demographics that present new challenges to providers, say researchers who studied the CR patient population in 1 health system over 2 decades. They describe today’s CR patients as older, more overweight, and having a higher prevalence of coronary risk factors than CR patients in the past, with an expanded range of reasons for receiving CR that makes the population more diverse than ever.

The study analyzed data from 5,396 patients who received CR at the University of Vermont Medical Center over a 20-year period between 1996 and 2015, taking in a host of variables, including the reason for participation in CR, the presence of comorbidities, BMI, age, sex, and medications taken. Results were published in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention.

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Researchers Say Cardiac Rehab Not Reaching Enough People

Even though cardiac rehabilitation (CR) is strongly supported as an intervention for patients who have suffered a heart attack, too few people are getting referrals for CR programs, and an even smaller number is actually following through once they get a referral, according to a research letter recently published in JAMA.

Authors looked at CR enrollment and participation rates by comparing Medicare records of 58,269 acute myocardial infarction (AMI) patients with a national registry of coronary treatment intervention outcomes (National Cardiovascular Data Registry Acute Coronary Treatment Intervention Outcomes Registry). They found that between 2007 and 2010, only 64.2% of AMI patients were referred to CR at the time of hospital discharge, and only 12,000 of those patients attended at least 1 CR session during the following year.

Broken down in another way, the rates of CR referral and engagement are even more disappointing: according to the researchers, among all patients included in the study, only 23.1% attended at least 1 CR session. Just 5.4% completed 36 sessions or more—the number of sessions typically covered by health insurance.

Full story of not enough people getting cardiac rehab at APTA