Improving uptake and adherence in cardiac rehabilitation: literature review


  • Andrew D. Beswick BSc,

  • Karen Rees MSc PhD,

  • Robert R. West MA PhD FSS FFPH,

  • Fiona C. Taylor MA PhD HonMPHM,

  • Margaret Burke BA MSc,

  • Ingolf Griebsch BPharm MPH MSc,

  • Rod S. Taylor MSc PhD,

  • Jackie Victory DipHE BSc RGN,

  • Jacqueline Brown MA PhD FSS FFPH,

  • Shah Ebrahim DM FRCP FFPH

Andrew Beswick,
Department of Social Medicine,
University of Bristol,
Canynge Hall,
Whiteladies Road,
Bristol BS8 2PR, UK.


Aims.  This paper presents a comprehensive systematic review of literature carried out to identify studies of interventions to improve uptake, adherence and professional compliance in cardiac rehabilitation.

Background.  Guidelines recommend that cardiac rehabilitation should be offered to patients following acute myocardial infarction and revascularization. Uptake and adherence are low, particularly in women, older people, and socially deprived and ethnic minority patients. Although patient, service and professional barriers to rehabilitation uptake have been described, no attempt has been made to evaluate systematically interventions aimed at improving uptake and adherence in cardiac rehabilitation.

Methods.  A comprehensive search strategy identified studies of cardiac rehabilitation, using the terms uptake, adherence and compliance. The search included grey literature, hand searching of specialist journals and conference abstracts. No language restriction was applied. Studies were summarized in three qualitative overviews and assessed by quality of evidence.

Results.  From 3261 publications identified, 957 were acquired on the basis of title or abstract. Few studies were of sufficient quality to make specific recommendations. Six, 12 and five studies, respectively, provided adequate information on methods to improve uptake, adherence or professional compliance. A minority of studies were randomized controlled trials. Studies of motivational and self-management strategies and use of lay volunteers showed some promise in improving rehabilitation uptake or lifestyle change. Nurse-led coordination of care after hospital discharge may have a role in improving rehabilitation uptake. Limited information was provided on resource implications, and there was a lack of studies with under-represented groups. The literature contained numerous suggested interventions which merit evaluation in appropriately designed studies.

Conclusions.  Little research has been reported evaluating interventions to improve uptake, adherence and professional compliance in cardiac rehabilitation. A wide range of possible interventions was identified and further evaluations of methods are indicated.