Evidence of benefit from telerehabilitation in routine care: a systematic review

J Telemed Telecare. 2011;17(6):281-7. doi: 10.1258/jtt.2011.101208. Epub 2011 Aug 15.


We systematically reviewed the evidence on the effectiveness of telerehabilitation (TR) applications. The review included reports on rehabilitation for any disability, other than mental health conditions, and drug or alcohol addiction. All forms of telecommunications technology for TR and all types of study design were considered. Study quality was assessed using an approach that considered both study performance and study design. Judgements were made on whether each TR application had been successful, whether reported outcomes were clinically significant, and whether further data were needed to establish the application as suitable for routine use. Sixty-one scientifically credible studies that reported patient outcomes or administrative changes were identified through computerized literature searches on five databases. Twelve clinical categories were covered by the studies. Those dealing with cardiac or neurological rehabilitation were the most numerous. Thirty-one of the studies (51%) were of high or good quality. Study results showed that 71% of the TR applications were successful, 18% were unsuccessful and for 11% the status was unclear. The reported outcomes for 51% of the applications appeared to be clinically significant. Poorer-quality studies tended to have worse outcomes than those from high- or good-quality studies. We judged that further study was required for 62% of the TR applications and desirable for 23%. TR shows promise in many fields, but compelling evidence of benefit and of impact on routine rehabilitation programmes is still limited. There is a need for more detailed, better-quality studies and for studies on the use of TR in routine care.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Heart Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Telemedicine*
  • Treatment Outcome