Geographic Variation in Access to Cardiac Rehabilitation

Meredith S. Duncan, Natalie N. Robbins, Steven A. Wernke, Robert A. Greevy, Sandra L. Jackson, Alexis L. Beatty, Randal J. Thomas, Mary A. Whooley, Matthew S. Freiberg, Justin M. Bachmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: There is marked geographic variation in cardiac rehabilitation (CR) initiation, ranging from 10% to 40% of eligible patients at the state level. The potential causes of this variation, such as patient access to CR centers, are not well studied. Objectives: The authors sought to determine how access to CR centers affects CR initiation in Medicare beneficiaries. Methods: The authors used Medicare files to identify CR-eligible Medicare beneficiaries and calculate CR initiation rates at the hospital referral region (HRR) level. We used linear regression to evaluate the percent variation in CR initiation accounted for by CR access across HRRs. We then employed geospatial hotspot analysis to identify CR deserts, or counties in which patient load per CR center is disproportionately high. Results: A total of 1,133,657 Medicare beneficiaries were eligible for CR from 2014 to 2017, of whom 263,310 (23%) initiated CR. The West North Central Census Division had the highest adjusted CR initiation rate (35.4%) and the highest density of CR programs (6.58 per 1,000 CR-eligible Medicare beneficiaries). Density of CR programs accounted for 21.2% of geographic variation in CR initiation at the HRR level. A total of 40 largely urban counties comprising 14% of the United States population age ≥65 years had disproportionately low CR access and were identified as CR deserts. Conclusions: A substantial proportion of geographic variation in CR initiation was related to access to CR programs, with a significant amount of the U.S. population living in CR deserts. These data invite further study on interventions to increase CR access.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1049-1060
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 21 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023


  • access to care
  • cardiac rehabilitation
  • geographic variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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