A group of Australian researchers has determined that when it comes to assessment of low back pain (LBP), more work is needed on telerehabilitation (TR) before a remote approach becomes a fully reliable substitute for in-person interaction. The research team compared face-to-face and remote LBP assessments, finding that while “important components” of the assessments can be valid when obtained through TR, “some areas of the assessment require further testing and development.” The study was published in the February 2014 edition of Telemedicine and e-Health.
The study focused on LBP assessments conducted on 26 adults residents of a rural area in Queensland, Australia. The participants reported experiencing LBP currently or within the past 2 years. All participants in the study could mobilize independently and were capable of participating in a safe physical examination. The participants were divided into two groups, with half assigned to undergo a face-to-face LBP assessment followed by a TR assessment, and half to go through the process in the reverse order.
According to a news release from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), outcome measures were then compared relative to pain, posture, disability, active movement, and the straight leg raise (SLR) test. In addition, participants also filled out a questionnaire about their own satisfaction with the TR approach. At the conclusion of the study, the research team found strong correlation between face-to-face and TR assessments when it came to some, not all, measures.
The APTA news release notes that as for patients, the study found moderate-to-high satisfaction with the TR assessment, except for one area: whether they believed the remote approach was as good as a traditional face-to-face assessment. The study indicates that the key to moving forward with a telehealth assessment program is the development of a “clinically robust” TR assessment for LBP and the investigation of multidisciplinary treatment.