Objective: To investigate whether exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation services continued during the COVID-19 pandemic and how technology has been used to deliver home-based cardiac rehabilitation.

Design: A mixed methods survey including questions about exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation service provision, programme diversity, patient complexity, technology use, barriers to using technology, and safety.

Setting: International survey of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation programmes.

Participants: Healthcare professionals working in exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation programmes worldwide.

Main outcome measures: The proportion of programmes that continued providing exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation and which technologies had been used to deliver home-based cardiac rehabilitation.

Results: Three hundred and thirty eligible responses were received; 89.7% were from the UK. Approximately half (49.3%) of respondents reported that cardiac rehabilitation programmes were suspended due to COVID-19. Of programmes that continued, 25.8% used technology before the COVID-19 pandemic. Programmes typically started using technology within 19 days of COVID-19 becoming a pandemic. 48.8% did not provide cardiac rehabilitation to high-risk patients, telephone was most commonly used to deliver cardiac rehabilitation, and some centres used sophisticated technology such as teleconferencing.

Conclusions: The rapid adoption of technology into standard practice is promising and may improve access to, and participation in, exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation beyond COVID-19. However, the exclusion of certain patient groups and programme suspension could worsen clinical symptoms and well-being, and increase hospital admissions. Refinement of current practices, with a focus on improving inclusivity and addressing safety concerns around exercise support to high-risk patients, may be needed.

Cite as

O'Doherty, A., Humphreys, H., Dawkes, S., Cowie, A., Hinton, S., Brubaker, P., Butler, T. & Nichols, S. 2021, 'How has technology been used to deliver cardiac rehabilitation during the COVID-19 pandemic? An international cross-sectional survey of healthcare professionals conducted by the BACPR.', BMJ Open, 11(4), article no: e046051. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046051

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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