Telehealthcare in COPD: a systematic review and meta-analysis on physical outcomes and dyspnea

Respir Med. 2015 Jan;109(1):11-26. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2014.10.008. Epub 2014 Oct 27.


Background: Only a minority of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have access to pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). Home-based solutions such as telehealthcare, have been used in efforts to make PR more available. The aim of this systematic review was to investigate the effects of telehealthcare on physical activity level, physical capacity and dyspnea in patients with COPD, and to describe the interventions used.

Methods: Randomized controlled trials were identified through database searches, reference lists and included authors. Articles were reviewed based on eligibility criteria by three authors. Risk of bias was assessed by two authors. Standardized mean differences (SMD) or mean differences (MD) with 95% CI were calculated. Forest plots were used to present data visually.

Results: Nine studies (982 patients) were included. For physical activity level, there was a significant effect favoring telehealthcare (MD, 64.7 min; 95% CI, 54.4-74.9). No difference between groups was found for physical capacity (MD, -1.3 m; 95% CI, -8.1-5.5) and dyspnea (SMD, 0.088; 95% CI, -0.056-0.233). Telehealthcare was promoted through phone calls, websites or mobile phones, often combined with education and/or exercise training. Comparators were ordinary care, exercise training and/or education.

Conclusions: The use of telehealthcare may lead to improvements in physical activity level, although the results should be interpreted with caution given the heterogeneity in studies. This is an important area of research and further studies of the effect of telehealthcare for patients with COPD would be beneficial.

Registration: In PROSPERO 2012: CRD42012003294.

Study protocol:

Keywords: 6-min walk test; Physical activity level; Physical capacity; Symptoms; Telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology
  • Dyspnea / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / rehabilitation*
  • Telerehabilitation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome