CathPCI Registry Study Shows Institutional Factors Play Role in Referral Rates to Rehab After PCI

The Midwest outperformed other regions in referral rates to guideline-recommended cardiac rehabilitation after percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), possibly due to the greater number of rehab facilities in the region, according to a study published May 11 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Of the 1.4 million patients studied based on data from the ACC’s CathPCI Registry between July 2009 and March 2012, 76 percent from the Midwest were referred to cardiac rehab compared with 55 percent in the South, 50 percent in the Northeast, and 49 percent in the West. Other institutional characteristics associated with increased referrals were volume of PCI procedures and larger hospital size, as well as private and community hospitals.

The study noted variation in referral rates, with the bottom quarter of hospitals referring less than 20 percent of eligible patients and the top quarter referring more than 80 percent. On average, about 60 percent of all patients undergoing PCI were referred for cardiac rehabilitation. By comparison, prescription rates for preventive medications were significantly higher: 97.5 percent for aspirin and 89.8 percent for statins. Study authors also pointed out that physicians may be more inclined to refer patients presumed likely to participate in, complete, and benefit from a rehabilitation program, instead of referring all patients as a component of post-procedure care.

Previous studies have shown that lack of insurance coverage was a major barrier to referral to rehabilitation programs, but this study did not find a strong connection to insurance. Other patient factors, such as age and the presence of additional medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes, had only modest effects as well. Patients who had had a heart attack prior to the PCI were referred to cardiac rehabilitation at a rate of 66 percent, which is higher than referrals for the general population.  

“Since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have incorporated referral to cardiac rehabilitation after PCI as a publicly reported performance measure as of 2014, there is an impetus to assess the determinants of under-referral,” said Krishna G. Aragam, MD, MS, the study’s lead author and a clinical and research fellow in the Cardiology Division of Massachusetts General Hospital. “Our study offers new insights on referral patterns, with under-referral likely stemming from institutional factors, although many of these factors remain unidentified.”

In an accompanying editorial, Randal J. Thomas, MD, MS, FACC, of the Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Program at the Mayo Clinic, wrote that other studies have shown that interventions like the use of automatic cardiac rehabilitation referral orders and the availability of a staff member to help patients through the referral and enrollment process have improved referral rates. Thomas also suggests that the reason for higher referral rates in the Midwest may be because of a greater concentration of local rehabilitation centers than in other parts of the country.

“The study by Aragam and colleagues is a call to action,” Thomas said.  He added that new models of delivery are needed to improve enrollment and completion of cardiac rehabilitation, since existing programs only have the capacity to enroll less than 50 percent of eligible patients.

Aragam concluded that, “Our findings support the need to identify and assist under-performing institutions with the implementation of hospital-level interventions to improve cardiac rehabilitation referral rates, as participation in cardiac rehabilitation is associated with better outcomes for our patients.”

Clinical Topics: Invasive Cardiovascular Angiography and Intervention, Prevention, Hypertension

Keywords: Aspirin, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (U.S.), Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, Insurance Coverage, Medicaid, Medicare, Myocardial Infarction, Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, Referral and Consultation, Rehabilitation Centers, National Cardiovascular Data Registries, CathPCI Registry

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