ReviewEnsuring Cardiac Rehabilitation Access for the Majority of Those in Need: A Call to Action for Canada
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AbstractCardiac rehabilitation (CR) is a proven model of secondary prevention. Indicated cardiac conditions for CR are well established, and participation of these patients results in significantly lower mortality and morbidity when compared with usual care. There are approximately 170 CR programs in Canada, which varies widely by province. There is a grossly insufficient capacity to treat all patients with cardiac indications in Canada and beyond. The density of CR services is about half that in the United States, at 1 program per 208,823 inhabitants or 1 program per 7779 patients with cardiac disease. Despite the Canadian Cardiovascular Society's target of 85% referral for CR for cardiac inpatients with the appropriate indications, significantly fewer patients are referred for CR. Moreover, certain patient groups—such as women, ethnocultural minorities, and those of low socioeconomic status—are less likely to access CR, despite greater need because of poorer outcomes. CR appears to be reaching a healthier population that is perhaps more adherent to secondary prevention recommendations and hence in less need of the limited CR spots available. The reasons for CR underuse are well established and include factors at patient, referring provider, CR program, and health system levels. A Cochrane review has established some effective interventions to increase CR use, and these must be implemented more broadly. We must advocate for CR reimbursement. Finally, we must reallocate our CR resources to patients with the greatest need. This may involve risk stratification, with subsequent allocation of lower-risk patients to a more widely available, lower-cost, and effective alternative model of CR.

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