Background: There is a known positive relationship between time in therapy and therapy outcomes. Effective rehabilitation should therefore include larger doses of therapy. However, individuals participating in inpatient rehabilitation have low levels of activity throughout the day. This level of inactivity may limit rehabilitation potential. New technologies which deliver personalised exercise programs and track time spent on exercises may lead to greater activity levels and therefore improve functional outcomes in rehabilitation. This pilot randomised control trial aimed to investigate whether an app-based supplemental exercise program in orthopaedic rehabilitation will be feasible and acceptable to participants, increase activity levels and improve functional outcomes.
Methods: Participants were randomised to receive supplemental exercise via an app (PTPal™) on a tablet device additional to usual care or usual care alone. Primary outcome measures were participant satisfaction with app-based supplemental exercise, total repetitions of each activity and time in supplemental exercise programs. Secondary measures were 10-m walk test (10MWT), 6-min walk test (6MWT), Timed Up and Go (TUG), Functional Independence Measure and length of stay assessed by a blinded assessor.
Results: Twenty individuals admitted into an inpatient private general rehabilitation unit for orthopaedic rehabilitation over a 4-week duration were included in this study. High acceptance of the app-based supplemental exercise program was demonstrated. Those using the app completed an additional 549 exercise repetitions during their admission (694 supplemental app-based repetitions vs 146 supplemental paper-based repetitions in the control group, mean difference [MD] 549, 95% CI 95 to 1002, p = 0.02) and an additional 157 min in supplemental exercise throughout their admission (195.3 min vs 38.7 min, MD 157 min, 95% CI 0.9-312.3 min, p = 0.05). There was insufficient power to demonstrate statistical significance in functional outcomes, but a trend towards improved functional outcomes was observed in the intervention group.
Conclusion: An app-based exercise program increases activity levels, is feasible and is a safe intervention with the potential to improve functional outcomes. This pilot study should be followed with a larger study powered to demonstrate functional effects with more participants having greater impairment.
Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR); trial number ACTRN12617000817347. This study was retrospectively registered (registration date 05/06/2017).
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- Orthopaedic rehabilitation
- Exercise therapy
- Physical therapy