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Safety, feasibility, and effectiveness of virtual pulmonary rehabilitation in the real world

Authors Knox L, Dunning M, Davies CA, Mills-Bennet R, Sion TW, Phipps K, Stevenson V, Hurlin C, Lewis K

Received 7 November 2018

Accepted for publication 31 January 2019

Published 8 April 2019 Volume 2019:14 Pages 775—780

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/COPD.S193827

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Russell


Liam Knox,1 Michelle Dunning,1 Carol-Anne Davies,1 Rebekah Mills-Bennet,1 Trystan Wyn Sion,1 Kerrie Phipps,1 Vicky Stevenson,1 Claire Hurlin,1 Keir Lewis1,2

1Hywel Dda University Health Board, UK; 2School of Medicine, University of Swansea, Swansea, UK

Purpose: To assess the feasibility, safety, and effectiveness of a VIrtual PulmonAry Rehabilitation (VIPAR) program in a real-world setting.
Patients and methods: Twenty-one patients with stable chronic lung disease at a spoke site received (VIPAR) through live video conferencing with a hub where 24 patients were receiving 14 sessions of standard, outpatient, multi-disciplinary pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) in a hospital. We studied three such consecutive PR programs with 6–10 patients at each site. The hub had a senior physiotherapist, occupational therapist, exercise assistant, and guest lecturer, and the spoke usually had only an exercise instructor and nurse present. Uptake, adverse events (AEs), and early clinical changes were compared within and between groups. Travel distances were estimated using zip codes.
Results: Mean attendance was 11.0 sessions in the hub and 10.5 sessions in the spoke (P=0.65). There was a single (mild) AE (hypoglycemia) in all three hub programs and no AEs in the three spoke programs. Mean COPD Assessment Test scores improved from 25.3 to 21.5 in the hub (P<0.001, 95% CI 2.43–5.17) and from 23.4 to 18.8 (P<0.001, 2.23–7.02) in the spoke group, with no difference between the groups (P=0.51, -3.35–1.70). Mean incremental shuttle walk test scores improved from 142 to 208 m (P<0.001, 75–199) in the hub and from 179 to 316 minutes in the spoke (P<0.001, 39.3–92.4), with a greater improvement in the spoke (P=0.025, 9.31–133). Twenty-one patients saved a total of 8,609.8 miles over the three programs by having the PR in their local spoke, rather than traveling to the usual nearest (hospital) hub.
Conclusion: Video-conferencing, which links a local site to a standard PR program is feasible, safe, and demonstrates at least equivalent short-term clinical gains. Throughput can be increased, with less staffing ratios and significantly less traveling.

Keywords: video-linking, pulmonary rehabilitation, telemedicine, prudent healthcare

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