Promoting Participation in Pulmonary Rehabilitation after Hospitalization for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Strategies of Top-performing Systems: A Qualitative Study

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2023 Apr;20(4):532-538. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.202203-237OC.


Rationale: Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) after hospitalization for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is recommended by guidelines; however, few patients participate, and rates vary between hospitals. Objectives: To identify contextual factors and strategies that may promote participation in PR after hospitalization for COPD. Methods: Using a positive-deviance approach, we calculated hospital-specific rates of PR after hospitalization for COPD among a cohort of Medicare beneficiaries. At a purposive sample of high-performing and innovative hospitals in the United States, we conducted in-depth interviews with key stakeholders. We defined high-performing hospitals as having a PR rate above the 95th percentile, at least 6.58%. To learn from hospitals that demonstrated a commitment to improving rates of PR, regardless of PR rates after discharge, we identified innovative hospitals on the basis of a review of American Thoracic Society conference research presentations from prior years. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Using a directed content analysis approach, transcripts were coded iteratively to identify themes. Results: Interviews were conducted with 38 stakeholders at nine hospitals (seven high-performers and two innovators). Hospitals were diverse regarding size, teaching status, PR program characteristics, and geographic location. Participants included PR medical directors, PR managers, respiratory therapists, inpatient and outpatient providers, and others. We found that high-performing hospitals were broadly focused on improving care for patients with COPD, and several had recently implemented new initiatives to reduce rehospitalizations after admission for COPD in response to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services/Medicare's Hospital Readmission Reduction Program. Innovative and high-performing hospitals had systems in place to identify patients with COPD that enabled them to provide patient education and targeted discharge planning. Strategies took several forms, including the use of a COPD navigator or educator. In addition, we found that high-performing hospitals reported effective interprofessional and patient communication, had clinical champions or external change agents, and received support from hospital leadership. Specific strategies to promote PR included education of referring providers, education of patients to increase awareness of PR and its benefits, and direct assistance in overcoming barriers. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that successful efforts to increase participation in PR may be most effective when part of a larger strategy to improve outcomes for patients with COPD. Further research is necessary to test the generalizability of our findings.

Keywords: Medicare; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; positive deviance; pulmonary rehabilitation; qualitative.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Hospitalization
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Medicare*
  • Patient Readmission
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / rehabilitation
  • United States