Physiotherapist-led, exercise-based telerehabilitation for older adults improves patient and health service outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Author: Matoula Wicks1, Amy M Dennett2,3, Casey L Peiris3,4
1 Community Health Program, Eastern Health, Box Hill, VIC 3128, Australia.
2 Allied Health Clinical Research Office, Eastern Health, Box Hill, VIC 3128, Australia.
3 School of Allied Health, Human Services and Sport, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC 3086, Australia.
4 Allied Health, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia.
Conference/Journal: Age Ageing
Date published: 2023 Nov 2
Other: Volume ID: 52 , Issue ID: 11 , Pages: afad207 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1093/ageing/afad207. , Word Count: 263

Telerehabilitation can be an appropriate alternative to face-to-face rehabilitation for adults; however, it is uncertain whether it is safe and effective for older adults.

This review aimed to determine the effect of physiotherapist-led, exercise-based telerehabilitation for older adults on patient outcomes (health-related quality of life, activity limitation, functional impairment) and health service costs.

Randomised or non-randomised controlled trials including community-dwelling older adults (mean age ≥ 65 years) who received exercise-based telerehabilitation led by a physiotherapist were eligible. Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Medline, PubMed and Cochrane Library were searched from the earliest available date to August 2022. Methodological quality was assessed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale. Data were synthesised with inverse variance, random-effects meta-analyses to determine standardised mean differences and 95% confidence intervals. Certainty of evidence was determined by applying Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation criteria.

Eleven studies (10 randomised) with 1,400 participants (mean age 65-74 years) experiencing musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary conditions were included. Telerehabilitation was safe, effective and well adhered to. Telerehabilitation was non-inferior to face-to-face physiotherapy in relation to range of movement, strength, 6-min walk distance (6MWD), timed up and go test (TUGT) and quality of life and had lower health-care costs compared with face-to-face physiotherapy. Compared with no intervention, telerehabilitation participants had significantly better range of motion, strength, quality of life, 6MWD and TUGT speed.

Physiotherapist-led, exercise-based telerehabilitation is non-inferior to face-to-face rehabilitation and better than no intervention for older adults with musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary conditions.

Keywords: exercise; older adults; older people; physical therapy; rehabilitation; systematic review; telerehabilitation.

PMID: 37979183 PMCID: PMC10657214 DOI: 10.1093/ageing/afad207