A prospective comparison of cardiac rehabilitation enrollment following automatic vs usual referral
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OBJECTIVE: Cardiac rehabilitation remains grossly under-utilized despite its proven benefits. This study prospectively compared verified cardiac rehabilitation enrollment following automatic vs usual referral, postulating that automatic referral would result in significantly greater enrollment for cardiac rehabilitation. DESIGN: Prospective controlled multi-center study. PATIENTS AND METHODS: A consecutive sample of 661 patients with acute coronary syndrome treated at 2 acute care centers (75% response rate) were recruited, one site with automatic referral via a computerized prompt and the other with a usual referral strategy at the physician's discretion. Cardiac rehabilitation referral was discerned in a mailed survey 9 months later (n = 506; 84% retention), and verified with 24 cardiac rehabilitation sites to which participants were referred. RESULTS: A total of 124 (52%) participants enrolled in cardiac rehabilitation following automatic referral, vs 84 (32%) following usual referral (p < 0.001). Automatically referred participants were more likely to be referred from an in- patient unit (p < 0.01), and to be referred in a shorter time period (p < 0.001). Logistic regression analyses revealed that, after controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and case-mix, automatically referred participants were significantly more likely to enroll in cardiac rehabilitation (odds ratio = 2.1; 95% confidence interval 1.4-3.3) than controls. CONCLUSION: Automatic referral resulted in over 50% verified cardiac rehabilitation enrollment; 2 times more than usual referral. It also significantly reduced utilization delays to less than one month.
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