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Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation & Prevention:
doi: 10.1097/HCR.0b013e31829b6e81
Brief Reports

A Comparison of Barriers to Use of Home- Versus Site-Based Cardiac Rehabilitation

Shanmugasegaram, Shamila MSc; Oh, Paul MD, MSc, FRCPC; Reid, Robert D. PhD, MBA; McCumber, Treva MScN; Grace, Sherry L. PhD

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Author Information

York University, Toronto (Ms Shanmugasegaram and Dr Grace), University Health Network Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Toronto (Drs Oh and Grace), University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Ottawa (Dr Reid), and Mackenzie Health, Toronto (Ms McCumber and Dr Grace), Ontario, Canada.

Correspondence: Sherry L. Grace, PhD, York University, Bethune 368, 4700 Keele St, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada (

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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PURPOSE: Despite the established benefits of cardiac rehabilitation (CR), it remains significantly underutilized. It is unknown whether patient barriers to enrollment and adherence are addressed by offering choice of program type. The purpose of this study was to examine barriers to participation in CR by program type (site- vs home-based program) and the relation of these barriers to degree of program participation and exercise behavior.

METHODS: One thousand eight hundred nine cardiac patients from 11 hospitals across Ontario completed a sociodemographic survey inhospital, and clinical data were extracted from medical records. They were mailed a followup survey 1 year later, which included the Cardiac Rehabilitation Barriers Scale and the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly. Participants were also asked whether they attended CR, the type of program model attended, and the percentage of prescribed sessions completed.

RESULTS: Overall, 939 patients (51.9%) participated in CR, with 96 (10.3%) participating in a home-based program. Home-based participants reported significantly greater CR barriers, including distance, than site-based participants (P < .001). Mean barrier scores were significantly and negatively related to session completion and physical activity among site-based (Ps < .05), but not home-based (NS), CR participants.

CONCLUSION: The barriers to CR are significantly different among patients attending site- versus home-based programs, suggesting appropriate use of alternative models of care. Patient preferences should be considered when allocating patients to program models. Once in CR, programs should work toward identifying and tackling barriers among site-based participants.

The global prevalence of cardiovascular diseases is reaching epidemic proportions.1 Research shows that exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation (CR) reduces the likelihood of cardiac-related mortality and improves quality of life.2 Despite the significant benefits of CR, it is greatly underutilized. It is estimated that only approximately 20% to 30% of eligible patients participate in CR.3,4

To address many of the CR barriers such as lack of transportation access and distance to program facilities, home-based CR programs have been developed. Home-based CR programs offer the same core CR components as site-based programs,5,6 but communication occurs through telephone or Internet contact, education occurs through provision of written materials, and exercise is undertaken in the patient community environment. Home- and site-based programs do not differ in terms of mortality rates, cardiac events, exercise capacity, smoking cessation, or health-related quality of life.7

Patients reporting greater barriers to CR use are significantly less likely to enroll and are more likely to dropout, ultimately not achieving the health benefits of CR.8 Yet, many patient barriers to CR could be addressed by appropriate allocation to site- or home-based programs, although this has yet to be investigated. Thus, the objectives of this study were to (1) describe and compare barriers to participation and (2) investigate whether these barriers are related to (a) program adherence (percentage of site or phone CR sessions attended) and (b) exercise behavior among patients participating in site- versus home-based CR programs.

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This is a secondary analysis of a larger study9 for which cardiac inpatients from 11 hospitals in Ontario, Canada, were recruited. Cardiac rehabilitation services were provided through provincial health care at no cost to patients (although patients pay for transportation and/or parking at each visit). Ethics approval was granted from all participating institutions. After obtaining consent, clinical data were extracted from medical records, and a self-report survey was provided to patients for completion. Among other variables, this survey assessed sociodemographic characteristics.

One year later, participants were mailed a followup survey assessing physical activity, CR barriers, and CR use. The cross-sectional analyses presented herein were based on this latter cohort of retained participants who reported attending CR.

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A total of 2635 (61.8% response rate) stable cardiac inpatients were recruited. Inclusion criteria for the larger study were as follows: patients with confirmed acute coronary syndrome diagnosis and patients who had undergone percutaneous coronary intervention or coronary artery bypass graft surgery or had heart failure. Exclusion criteria for the larger study were as follows: participation in CR within the past 2 years and significant orthopedic, neuromuscular, visual, cognitive, and/or any serious mental illness that would preclude CR participation.

Overall, there were 1809 (80.4%) participants retained in the study who completed the 1-year followup survey. There were some significant differences in the characteristics of participants retained versus lost to followup that are reported elsewhere.9

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Self-reported sociodemographic variables measured in the initial survey through forced-choice response options included patient marital status and ethnocultural background (response options were based on Statistics Canada). Patients were asked at the time of recruitment whether they lived within a 30-minute drive time of a hospital and were coded as rural if they responded “no.” The MacArthur Scale of Subjective Social Status was also administered.10 Participants were asked to demarcate their socioeconomic status on a 10-rung ladder compared with that of others in Canada. Scale scores ranged from 1 to 10, with higher scores indicating greater subjective socioeconomic status. Sociodemographic data obtained from the medical records included date of birth and gender.

Participants were also administered the Duke Activity Status Index in the initial survey.11 This scale correlates highly with peak oxygen uptake and functional capacity.11 Clinical variables obtained from the medical records included diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and comorbidities.

The 1-year followup survey assessed self-reported CR utilization, through forced-choice response options for participation (yes/no), as well as a patient estimate of percentage of prescribed CR sessions attended. The CR program type was assessed by asking participants to report whether they attended a home- or site-based CR program. The following 2 psychometrically validated scales were also administered:

The Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly is a valid and reliable 10-item brief questionnaire that measures the level of physical activity in individuals 65 years or older. The respondent is asked how many days per week, and how much time was spent in each activity over the past week, graded in 4 categories.12

The Cardiac Rehabilitation Barriers Scale (CRBS) is a valid and reliable measure that assesses patient perceptions of patient-, provider-, and health system–level barriers to CR enrollment and participation.8 Participants were asked to rate their level of agreement on each of the 21 statements. Items were rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). A mean score is computed, and higher scores indicate greater barriers to patient participation in a CR program.

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Statistical Analyses

SPSS Version 20.0 was used to analyze the data. Student t tests and χ2 analyses were performed as appropriate to compare sociodemographic and clinical characteristics between those who attended home- and site-based CR. To test the first objective, t tests were performed to compare CR barriers between patients reporting participation in home- and site-based CR. Given that multiple tests were being performed to test each individual barrier, a Bonferroni correction of P < .002 was applied. To test the second objective, the Pearson correlation was used to assess the associations between total CR barriers with physical activity and with percentage of CR sessions attended, overall and among those who attended home- versus site-based CR. Where significant, an examination of the relation to each barrier was undertaken.

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Of the 1809 participants, 939 (51.9%) reported enrolling in CR and comprised the sample for this study. Of these, 821 (88.2%) reported attending a site-based CR program and 96 (10.3%) reported attending a home-based CR program. Fourteen patients (1.5%) reported attending a hybrid program that consisted of both site-based CR and home-based CR, and these patients were excluded from the sample to avoid contamination of the data. Eight patients (0.9%) failed to report the type of program that they attended. Table 1 displays the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of the CR participants by home- versus site-based program use. There were no significant differences in these characteristics between participants enrolled in either program model.

Table 1
Table 1
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CR Barriers

Table 2 displays CR barriers in descending order. The highest endorsed barrier among site-based participants was travel, and among home-based participants, it was already exercising at home or in one's community. Home-based CR participants reported significantly greater barriers overall than site-based CR participants. More specifically, home-based CR participants rated the following 2 barriers significantly higher than site-based CR participants: distance and already exercising in the home or community. The nature of these barriers is such that they are addressed by provision of home-based programs.

Table 2
Table 2
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CR Barriers in Relation to Program Adherence and Physical Activity

The mean percentage of site CR sessions attended for site-based participants was 83.2 ± 26.5, and that of phone sessions for home-based participants was 82.7 ± 30.6 (NS). The percentage of sessions attended was significantly and negatively related to barriers among site-based participants (r = −0.36, P < .001) but not among home-based participants (r = −0.15, P = .29). All of the items were significantly and negatively related to percentage of sessions attended for site-based CR participants (Ps < .001) except for “severe weather” (r = −0.13, P = .002) and “travel” (r = −0.05, NS).

The Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly scores suggest that, overall, 280 CR participants (29.8%) were meeting physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week at 1 year posthospitalization. The mean physical activity score was 139.0 ± 88.2 for site-based CR participants and 165.1 ± 93.7 for home-based participants (P < .05). The total CRBS score was significantly and negatively related to physical activity for site-based (r = −0.11, P < .05) but not home-based (r = −0.12, NS) CR participants. The following items were significantly and negatively related to physical activity for site-based CR participants: “I find exercise tiring or painful” (P = .001) and “I don't have the energy” (P < .01).

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Although CR barriers were generally low, patients who attended home-based CR programs reported significantly greater barriers to CR utilization than those who attended site-based CR. Also, the nature of these barriers, such as distance, suggests that patients are being appropriately allocated to program model. The finding that program adherence rates were high overall, and the lack of significant difference in program adherence between home- and site-based CR, further suggests that patients were highly engaged in CR. Overall, this indicates that programs are using a patient-centered approach to program model allocation and that this approach may serve to promote CR adherence.

However, only approximately 10% of patients participated in home-based CR and these participants were engaging in significantly more exercise 1 year posthospitalization than their site-based counterparts. Many of the CR barriers were significantly related to lower program adherence and exercise behavior among participants who had attended site-based programs. Indeed, this could be due to lack of integration of the patient exercise routine into the home and community environment. These subsequent findings have important implications in terms of home-based service capacity and promotion of program adherence and exercise maintenance following site-based programs.

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Program Model Allocation and CR Barriers

The results of this study suggest that patient perceptions of their CR barriers are taken into consideration when allocating patients to CR program models. Although several indicators of disease severity were not related to CR model allocation, distance to the program facilities as perceived by patients and having an established routine for exercise in one's home or community setting were taken into consideration. Similar to our findings, an earlier study reported no significant differences between program models in terms of the sociodemographic characteristics of participants.13 However, contrary to the current findings, they found that patients attending a site-based CR program had lower functional status than their home-based counterparts, suggesting that higher-acuity patients were being appropriately allocated to a supervised program.13 It is worrisome that such differences were not observed in the current sample.

In a randomized controlled trial with 4 arms (randomization to home- or site-based CR or patient preference to home- or site-based CR), researchers compared the clinical effectiveness of home- versus site-based CR after myocardial infarction. First, they found that the choice of a model did not significantly affect clinical outcomes.14 This again highlights the value of considering patient preference in program model allocation. Second, adherence to home-based CR was comparable between the randomized (73%) and preference (75%) arms. This suggests that if patients were to be allocated to a home-based program on the basis of low disease severity, for instance, it would less likely have a negative impact on their program adherence.

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Caution is warranted when interpreting these results because of several study limitations. First, the generalizability of the findings is limited by sample selection and retention bias. Second, because of the nature of the cross-sectional study design, causal conclusions cannot be drawn. Third, there was a relatively small sample of home-based CR participants when compared with the site-based sample. The lack of significant relationships between the CRBS and program adherence, as well as exercise behavior among the home-based CR participants, could be due to lack of power. Finally, there are some measurement limitations. Cardiac rehabilitation barriers were assessed 1 year posthospitalization and therefore patient reports could have been affected by recall bias. We did not ascertain CR program model allocation, reasons for CR program model allocation, or the degree of patient participation directly from CR programs. Moreover, the degree of program adherence reported by participants may be inflated because of socially desirable responding. However, this influence would be minimal, as literature shows that self-reported and site-verified rates of program participation are highly concordant.15 In addition, there may be some measurement error related to the appropriateness of some of the CRBS items and hence their interpretation by home- versus site-based CR participants. Finally, we failed to ask participants to report the number of CR sessions prescribed. Likely, home-based participants would have significantly fewer sessions than site-based participants, which may have led to errors in our comparison of program adherence by model. This should be tested more comprehensively in future research.

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Home-based CR participants reported greater CR barriers than site-based CR participants. The nature of these barriers can be overcome through home-based CR provision, suggesting that they are being appropriately allocated to this alternative model of care. In addition, several barriers and perceptions among site-based CR participants, notably lack of energy, were related to lower program participation and exercise. Given that there are several established interventions to promote program adherence and postprogram exercise behavior, perhaps these should be targeted to patients reporting these specific barriers.

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This study was funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada grant HOA-80676. Ms Shanmugasegaram is supported in her graduate studies by the CIHR Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral Award. In addition, Dr Grace is supported by CIHR salary award MSH-80489.

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barriers; cardiac rehabilitation; program model

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