Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) services improve various clinical outcomes in patients with cardiovascular disease, but such services are underutilized, particularly in women. The aim of this study was to identify evidence-based barriers and solutions for CR participation in women. A literature search was carried out using PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane, OVID/Medline, and CINAHL to identify studies that have assessed barriers and/or solutions to CR participation. Titles and abstracts were screened, and then the full-text of articles that met study criteria were reviewed. We identified 24 studies that studied barriers to CR participation in women and 31 studies that assessed the impact of various interventions to improve CR referral, enrollment, and/or completion of CR in women. Patient-level barriers included lower education level, multiple comorbid conditions, non-English native language, lack of social support, and high burden of family responsibilities. We found support for the use of automatic referral and assisted enrollment to improve CR participation. A small number of studies suggest that incentive-based strategies, as well as home-based programs, may contribute to improving CR attendance and completion rates. A systematic approach to CR referral, including automatic CR referral, may help overcome barriers to CR referral in women and should be implemented in clinical practice. However, more studies are needed to help identify the best methods to improve CR attendance and completion of CR rates in women.
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