Telerehabilitation, an emerging method, extends rehabilitative care beyond the hospital, and facilitates multifaceted, often psychotherapeutic approaches to modern management of patients using telecommunication technology at home or in the community. Although a wide range of telerehabilitation interventions are trialed in persons with multiple sclerosis (pwMS), evidence for their effectiveness is unclear.
To investigate the effectiveness and safety of telerehabilitation intervention in pwMS for improved patient outcomes. Specifically, this review addresses the following questions: does telerehabilitation achieve better outcomes compared with traditional face-to-face intervention; and what types of telerehabilitation interventions are effective, in which setting and influence which specific outcomes (impairment, activity limitation and participation)?
We performed a literature search using the Cochrane Multiple Sclerosis and Rare Diseases of the Central Nervous System Review Group Specialised Register( 9 July, 2014.) We handsearched the relevant journals and screened the reference lists of identified studies, and contacted authors for additional data.
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs) that reported telerehabilitation intervention/s in pwMS and compared them with some form of control intervention (such as lower level or different types of intervention, minimal intervention, waiting-list controls or no treatment (or usual care); interventions given in different settings) in adults with MS.
Two review authors independently selected studies and extracted data. Three review authors assessed the methodological quality of studies using the GRADEpro software (GRADEpro 2008) for best-evidence synthesis. A meta-analysis was not possible due to marked methodological, clinical and statistical heterogeneity between included trials and between measurement tools used. Hence, we performed a best-evidence synthesis using a qualitative analysis.
Nine RCTs, one with two reports, (N = 531 participants, 469 included in analyses) investigated a variety of telerehabilitation interventions in adults with MS. The mean age of participants varied from 41 to 52 years (mean 46.5 years) and mean years since diagnosis from 7.7 to 19.0 years (mean 12.3 years). The majority of the participants were women (proportion ranging from 56% to 87%, mean 74%) and with a relapsing-remitting course of MS. These interventions were complex, with more than one rehabilitation component and included physical activity, educational, behavioural and symptom management programmes.All studies scored 'low' on the methodological quality assessment. Overall, the review found 'low-level' evidence for telerehabilitation interventions in reducing short-term disability and symptoms such as fatigue. There was also 'low-level' evidence supporting telerehabilitation in the longer term for improved functional activities, impairments (such as fatigue, pain, insomnia); and participation measured by quality of life and psychological outcomes. There were limited data on process evaluation (participants'/therapists' satisfaction) and no data available for cost effectiveness. There were no adverse events reported as a result of telerehabilitation interventions.
There is currently limited evidence on the efficacy of telerehabilitation in improving functional activities, fatigue and quality of life in adults with MS. A range of telerehabilitation interventions might be an alternative method of delivering services in MS populations. There is insufficient evidence to support on what types of telerehabilitation interventions are effective, and in which setting. More robust trials are needed to build evidence for the clinical and cost effectiveness of these interventions.