Telehealth may be helpful in physical rehabilitation

24 Sep 2022
Telehealth may be helpful in physical rehabilitation

Performance-based measures of physical function, such as exercise capacity and balance, appear to have sufficient reliability when administered via telehealth, a recent study has found.

Researchers conducted a systematic literature review, scanning the online databases of PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and PsycINFO. Overall, five studies were eligible for inclusion, including patients with Parkinson’s disease (n=2), stroke (n=1), cystic fibrosis (n=1), and chronic heart failure (n=1).

A total of 15 performance-based measures administered via videoconferencing were assessed, including functional balance, general functional capacity, exercise capacity, and functional strength. The outcome of interest was inter- and intra-rater reliability.

Of the exercise capacity measures assessed, the 6-minute walk test showed sufficient reliability, while not enough evidence was available for the three-minute step test. In terms of functional strength, the grip strength test also showed adequate reliability, while pinch strength also had insufficient evidence to assess reliability.

For functional balance, the most robust tests were the Berg Balance Scale, the timed up-and-go test, step test, and steps in 360-degree turn test. Meanwhile, the Functional Independence Measure and the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale were the most reliable measures of functional capacity.

“Encouragingly, several performance-based measures of physical function across different domains may have satisfactory reliability and criterion validity when used in a telehealth environment,” the researchers said. “Furthermore, the psychometric properties of these measures appear similar to that reported for the same measures when used in a face-to-face context.”

“However, the evidence is of low to very low quality, reflecting the small number of studies conducted and the small sample sizes included in the studies. Future research is needed to explore the measurement error, responsiveness, interpretability, and feasibility of these measures administered via telehealth,” they added.

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