Objectives: To determine whether pulmonary rehabilitation carried out in a community setting is more effective than that carried out in a standard hospital setting and which is more cost-effective; also whether telephone follow-up is both cost-effective and useful in prolonging the beneficial effects of a pulmonary rehabilitation programme.
Design: A randomised trial. Participants were randomised in 2 x 2 factorial fashion to hospital or community rehabilitation and telephone or standard follow-up with review.
Setting: Hospitals or community sites in Sheffield. The community venues were selected to be close to public transport routes and have good parking and level access. The two hospital venues were the physiotherapy gym and a staff gym within the grounds of the hospital.
Participants: Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease diagnosed by respiratory physicians according to Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease guidelines.
Interventions: Participants were randomised to one of four groups: hospital rehabilitation with no telephone follow-up; hospital rehabilitation with telephone follow-up; community rehabilitation with no telephone follow-up; or community rehabilitation with telephone follow-up. All were blinded to the telephone intervention arm until 1 month post rehabilitation, when only the assessment team and research participants were unblinded.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was the difference in improvement in endurance shuttle walking test (ESWT) between hospital and community pulmonary rehabilitation groups post rehabilitation, and the difference in ESWT during 18 months' follow-up between those receiving telephone encouragement and those receiving standard care. A secondary measure was health-related quality of life.
Results: A total of 240 participants had evaluable data. Of these, 129 were randomised to hospital rehabilitation (64 with telephone follow-up and 65 with no telephone follow-up) and 111 to community rehabilitation (55 with telephone follow-up and 56 with no telephone follow-up). For the primary outcome measure, there were 162 patients with data for analysis: hospital rehabilitation with no telephone follow-up (n = 38); hospital rehabilitation with telephone follow-up (n = 48); community rehabilitation with no telephone follow-up (n = 43); and community rehabilitation with telephone follow-up (n = 33). For the acute phase post-rehabilitation outcomes, before patients had the opportunity for telephone follow-up, we compared outcomes between the 76 patients in the community rehabilitation group and the 86 patients in the hospital rehabilitation group. Patients in the hospital rehabilitation group increased the distance they could walk at the post-rehabilitation follow-up by 283 m (SD 360 m), an increase relative to baseline of 109% (SD 137%). Patients in the community rehabilitation group increased the distance they could walk at the post-rehabilitation follow-up by 216 m (SD 340 m), an increase relative to baseline of 91% (SD 133%). There was no statistically significant difference between the groups [17.8% (95% CI -24.3 to 59.9, p = 0.405)]. For longer term outcomes at 6, 12 and 18 months post rehabilitation there was no evidence of a rehabilitation group effect. After allowing for the initial post-rehabilitation baseline distance walked, time (follow-up visit) and the factorial design (telephone follow-up group), the average difference in the post-rehabilitation follow-up distance walked on the ESWT between the hospital and community rehabilitation groups was 1.5 m (95% CI -82.1 to 97.2, p = 0.971), and between the telephone and no-telephone groups it was 56.9 m (95% CI -25.2 to 139, p = 0.174). There was no difference between hospital or community groups in terms of acute effect or persistence of effect. Health economic analysis favoured neither hospital nor community settings, nor did it clearly favour telephone follow-up or routine care.
Conclusions: Pulmonary rehabilitation delivered in a community setting has similar efficacy to that produced in a more traditional hospital-based setting, both settings producing significant improvements in terms of exercise capacity and quality of life acutely and after long-term follow-up. Health economic analysis showed that neither hospital nor community programmes were greatly favoured. The choice of model will depend on local factors of convenience, existing availability of resources and incremental costs. Staff characteristics may be important in gaining optimal outcome, and care should be taken in staff recruitment and training.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN86821773.