Do people with musculoskeletal conditions better adhere to their home exercise programs when these are provided to them on an app with remote support compared to paper handouts?
Eighty participants with upper or lower limb musculoskeletal conditions were recruited to the trial. Each participant was prescribed a 4-week home exercise program by a physiotherapist at a tertiary teaching hospital in Australia. Participants were randomly assigned via a computer-generated concealed block randomisation procedure to either intervention (n = 40) or control (n = 40) groups. Participants in the intervention group received their home exercise programs on an app linked to the freely available website www.physiotherapyexercises.com. They also received supplementary phone calls and motivational text messages. Participants in the control group received their home exercise programs as a paper handout.
Blinded assessors collected outcome measures at baseline and 4 weeks. The primary outcome was self-reported exercise adherence. There were five secondary outcomes, which captured functional performance, disability, patient satisfaction, perceptions of treatment effectiveness, and different aspects of adherence.
Outcomes were available on 77 participants. The mean between-group difference for self-reported exercise adherence at 4 weeks was 1.3/11 points (95% CI 0.2 to 2.3), favouring the intervention group. The mean between-group difference for function was 0.9/11 points (95% CI 0.1 to 1.7) on the Patient-Specific Functional Scale, also favouring the intervention group. There were no significant between-group differences for the remaining outcomes. People with musculoskeletal conditions adhere better to their home exercise programs when the programs are provided on an app with remote support compared to paper handouts; however, the clinical importance of this added adherence is unclear.