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Telerehabilitation versus face-to-face rehabilitation in the management of musculoskeletal conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis [with consumer summary]
Krzyzaniak N, Cardona M, Peiris R, Michaleff ZA, Greenwood H, Clark J, Scott AM, Glasziou P
Physical Therapy Reviews 2023;28(2):71-87
systematic review

BACKGROUND: Musculoskeletal conditions such as spinal pain and osteoarthritis are among the leading causes of years lived with disability worldwide. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many healthcare providers to change the way in which care for chronic conditions is delivered, telehealth is an alternative to face-to-face consultations that can be used for both assessment and provision of therapy and support. OBJECTIVE: To identify, appraise and synthesise findings from all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that compared telehealth to face-to-face consultations for patients with any type of musculoskeletal condition. METHODS: Systematic review and meta-analysis. We used the GRADE approach to assess the quality of evidence related to all outcomes. We searched three electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, CENTRAL), clinical trial registries and citing-cited references of included studies. RESULTS: Five RCTs were includable: one in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, one in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip in preparation for a total joint arthroscopy and three after total knee replacement. Telehealth was conducted by video in four trials and by phone in one. A total of 402 participants were analysed across the five trials. There were no significant differences in pain outcomes (WOMAC) between telehealth and face-to-face therapy immediate post-intervention (mean difference (MD) 0.12 (95% CI -2.3 to 2.6, p = 0.92) or two months post-intervention (MD) 1.2, (95% CI -2.7 to 5.1, p = 0.55). Similarly, outcomes related to function, quality of life and satisfaction were comparable between the two modes of delivery immediate post-intervention, with no significant differences reported. CONCLUSION: There is limited low quality evidence that there is no significant differences between telehealth-based delivery of rehabilitation to patients with osteoarthritis or following knee surgery and face-to-face therapy for pain, function, quality of life and satisfaction. These findings should be should be interpreted with caution due to the small number of included studies and small sample size.

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