ACC and Million Hearts: Saving Lives, Improving Health Through Cardiac Rehabilitation

Participation in cardiac rehabilitation (CR) improves quality of life and reduces the risk of death and readmissions to the hospital. Individuals who complete all 36 sessions of CR have a 47 percent lower risk of death, 31 percent lower risk of heart attack and are 33 percent less likely to experience a hospital readmission. CR participants also experience enhanced functional status, mood and medication adherence.

Despite these benefits, CR participation remains low, ranging from 19 percent to 34 percent, with dramatic variation by state and qualifying diagnosis. Million Hearts, through its Cardiac Rehabilitation Collaborative (CRC), is focused on changing these numbers. Launched in November 2015 during the Million Hearts CR Leadership Summit held at ACC's Heart House headquarters in Washington, DC, the CRC has grown to include more than 200 CR professionals, clinicians and health care teams, hospital and health system administrators, CR participants and their family members, payers, and innovators, dedicated to achieving 70 percent or greater CR participation among those eligible by 2022.

To reach this goal, the CRC is focused on five objectives: 1) increase awareness of the value of CR; 2) spread best practices; 3) improve health equity; 4) enhance sustainability; and 5) track progress. One of the early goals – to reach 5 million people about the value of CR by Dec. 31 – is fast approaching.

In the next two weeks and heading into 2019, ACC members can play a pivotal role in helping their patients achieve optimal cardiovascular health – and a critical role in ensuring high rates of participation in CR. What actions can YOU take?

  1. Find and share key messages about the importance of CR with your colleagues, team members, patients and their families. You can download ACC's CardioSmart CR infographic for use with patients in the office setting here. Let Million Hearts know how many people your messages reach (newsletters, presentations, web-blasts, etc.) at On social media, use #CRSavesLives to stay connected to the national movement.
  2. Refresh your knowledge about the value of CR. Visit Million Hearts® CR webpage. Earn a CME/MOC credits or a certificate of participation from ACC's free Cardiac Rehabilitation Information for Physicians webinar series.
  3. Check out the Cardiac Rehabilitation Change Package and select an idea that fits the needs of your patients, program and/or hospital. Pull a team together and launch a quality improvement project.
  4. Submit your CR success story to Huddle for CareTM so others can adopt or adapt your approach. Creating a race to the top – at least 70 percent participation nationally – will help so many people.
  5. Support ACC's efforts with other organizations to allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists to directly supervise cardiac and pulmonary rehab beginning in 2019.
  6. Join the Million Hearts® CRC to contribute to national progress in CR participation; email

This perspective was authored by Janet S. Wright, MD, FACC, executive director of Million Hearts, and Martha Gulati, MD, FACC, ACC CardioSmart Editor-In-Chief.

Keywords: Cardiac Rehabilitation, Patient Readmission, Quality Improvement, Quality of Life, Myocardial Infarction, Patient Care Team

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