Objective: To determine the evidence regarding the effectiveness of goal planning in clinical rehabilitation.
Design: Systematic review.
Method: MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, AMED, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, American College of Physicians (ACP) Journal Club, and the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE) were searched for randomized controlled trials on the therapeutic effectiveness of goal planning in the rehabilitation of adults with acquired disability. Studies were categorized by patient population and the clinical context of the study. Data were analysed using best-research synthesis, based on methodological quality determined by Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale scores.
Results: Nineteen studies were included in this review. Study populations in these papers included patients with neurological disorders, psychiatric disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disorders, respiratory disorders and dietary/endocrine disorders. Six studies investigated the immediate effects of goal planning on patient behaviour. Thirteen studies investigated the effects of goal planning in the context of a rehabilitation programme lasting more than one week. Some limited evidence was identified that goal planning can influence patient adherence to treatment regimes and strong evidence that prescribed, specific, challenging goals can improve immediate patient performance in some specific clinical contexts. However, evidence regarding how these effects translated to improved outcomes following rehabilitation programmes was inconsistent.
Conclusions: This review identified that while some studies demonstrated positive effects associated with goal planning in local contexts, the best available empirical evidence regarding the generalizable effectiveness of goal planning was inconsistent and compromised by methodological limitations.