Internet-based physiotherapy study shows benefits in patient pain relief

March 17, 2017

Innovative research released today proves that digitally enabled physiotherapy consultations are effective in treating patients with chronic knee pain.

Chronic knee pain, also known as knee osteoarthritis (OA), is a debilitating condition affecting more than two million Australians. OA has no cure, so helping patients manage their symptoms is an important part of their overall treatment, which includes diet and exercise programs.

Often, people living with OA get important support by visiting a physiotherapist at their clinic. However, for many people, particularly those living in regional/remote areas or with mobility issues, getting to a clinic can be difficult.

Currently, Medicare and health insurers rarely pay patient rebates unless the physiotherapist and patient are in the same place. This poses a significant financial barrier to effective treatments becoming available to Australians living remotely and/or with mobility issues.

The APA is calling on the Australian government to use the opportunity of the Medicare Review to change the rules so that all Australians can receive reimbursement for their health consultations, whether they be literally in the same room with their physiotherapist or in contact via a secure, digitally enabled connection. Private health insurers also need to do the same thing. This will ultimately lead to affordable and equitable health care across the country for all Australians.

A new study, published today in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine, shows some promising signs for people living with this debilitating pain. Effectiveness of an Internet-Delivered Exercise and Pain-Coping Skills Training Intervention for People With Chronic Knee Pain: A Randomized, Controlled Trial provides clear evidence that internet-delivered treatments are effective in managing chronic knee pain.

The study investigators recruited 148 people with chronic knee pain and allocated them into an intervention group or control group. The intervention group had seven appointments with a physiotherapist via Skype for prescription of a home exercise program and also independently completed an online pain coping skills training program over three months. The control group received online educational material only.

The results showed that the intervention group had significantly greater improvements in pain and physical function at three months which were sustained at their nine month follow up. Both participants and physiotherapists were highly satisfied with the treatment, with one physiotherapist saying, “I had a very positive experience with this study. I would rather embrace a new method if it’s proven to be successful than to continue doing something old.”

The study, conducted equally in cities and regional areas around the country, showed definite evidence-based effectiveness for this innovative digitally based consultation process.

The abstract for the clinical trial article can be read here.

Research like this is why The Australian Physiotherapy Association is pushing for changes to allow reimbursement for health consultations conducted both in-person or online. The research supports it!

Source: APA News, 21st February 2017