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Ontario healthcare system could save $100 million annually if cardiac patients finished rehab

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Patients who complete a cardiac rehabilitation program live longer, and cost the healthcare system up to $3,000 less annually compared with eligible patients who are not referred, never show, or drop-out prematurely from the program. (Video: UHN)
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Patients who complete a cardiac rehabilitation program live longer, and cost the healthcare system up to $3,000 less annually compared with eligible patients who are either not referred, never show, or drop-out prematurely from the program.

This, according to a new study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"The two-thirds of patients referred to cardiac rehab who do not attend or drop out early represent a group of people who are at particularly high risk of dying and who are very costly to our healthcare system," said Dr. David Alter, lead author and Senior Scientist, Toronto Rehab, University Health Network and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

"We need to focus heavily on improving those participation levels if we're hoping to make strides in improving the cost-savings with cardiac rehab programs."

The paper –"The Relationship Between Cardiac Rehabilitation Participation and Health Service Expenditures Within a Universal Health Care System" – focused on the opportunity for healthcare savings in a universal healthcare system such as in Canada, but can be applied to other jurisdictions with a public-payer system.

The researchers found that eligible patients for cardiac rehab who did complete a program cost the healthcare system $8 per day, or nearly $3,000 less per year, when compared with those who were not referred, did not show-up, or who dropped out. That amounts to about $100 million per year in Ontario.

Approximately 30 per cent of eligible patients completed their cardiac rehab.

"We do not yet know how to engage and convert the non-participants into completers of cardiac rehab," said Dr. Alter. "Up until now, metrics around improving cardiac rehab participation levels have not been a focus.

"This study highlights the need to place a much greater focus on those who are dropping out and what else we can do within the healthcare system to better address these patients. This in turn will drive down costs and maximize heart disease survival."

Funding for this study was provided through Dr. Alter's Toronto Rehab Chair in Cardiac Research and the Heart & Stroke Mid-Career Investigator Award.

Read the full media release​.

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