At the three-month mark, those who got the online coping skills and exercise training had significantly lower scores for pain, functioning and distress than when they started and compared to the people in the control group. This difference between the groups remained at nine months, though the gap closed somewhat.
“The important takeaway message from these findings is that an internet-delivered intervention that adopts a holistic approach to the management of chronic knee pain and knee osteoarthritis, using freely available computer software, is effective and well received by its users,” Bennell said.
“These results are encouraging and show that ‘telemedicine’ is clearly ready for prime time,” writes Dr. Lisa Mandl, a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, in an accompanying editorial.
“The real added benefit here is that patients do not have to come in for an appointment. They can access high-quality exercise and coping skills therapy, that is particularly tailored to them, at a place and time which is convenient,” Mandl told Reuters Health by email.
Patients may also feel more comfortable asking questions of their therapist when they are asking them from the comfort and privacy of their own home, she added.
“They may also be more motivated to follow the programs, knowing that they will receive a personalized follow-up call at home, and cannot avoid talking to the therapist by missing appointment,” Mandl said.
Mandl thinks this type of intervention would apply to most people, especially patients who live in rural areas or places without easy access to therapists. “The fact that the therapist could be located anywhere is especially helpful for patients who may not speak English,” she noted.
- Bennell KL, Nelligan R, Dobson F, et al. Effectiveness of an Internet-Delivered Exercise and Pain-Coping Skills Training Intervention for Persons With Chronic Knee Pain: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Feb. [Epub ahead of print]
- Mandl LA. Improving Symptoms in Knee Osteoarthritis: Can We Get There From Here? Ann Intern Med. 2017 Feb [Epub ahead of print]