"I was really sceptical...But it worked really well": a qualitative study of patient perceptions of telephone-delivered exercise therapy by physiotherapists for people with knee osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2018 Jun;26(6):741-750. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2018.02.909. Epub 2018 Mar 20.


Objective: Physiotherapists typically prescribe exercise therapy for people with osteoarthritis (OA) via face-to-face consultations. This study aimed to explore peoples' perceptions of exercise therapy delivered by physiotherapists via telephone for their knee OA.

Design: A qualitative study (based on interpretivist methodology) embedded within a randomised controlled trial. Semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with 20 people with knee OA who had received exercise advice and support from one of eight physiotherapists via telephone over 6 months. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed.

Results: Although people with OA were initially sceptical about receiving exercise therapy via telephone, they described mostly positive experiences, valuing the convenience and accessibility. However, some desired visual contact with the physiotherapist and suggested including video-conferencing calls or an initial in-person clinic visit. Participants valued the sense of undivided focus and attention they received from the physiotherapist and believed that they were able to communicate effectively via telephone. Participants felt confident performing their exercise program without supervision and described benefits including increased muscular strength, improved pain, and ability to perform tasks that they had not been previously able to.

Conclusions: People with knee OA held mostly positive perceptions about receiving exercise therapy from a physiotherapist via telephone, suggesting that such a service is broadly acceptable to consumers. Such services were generally not viewed as a substitute for face-to-face physiotherapy care, but rather as a new option that could increase accessibility of physiotherapy services, particularly for follow-up consultations.

Keywords: Exercise; Osteoarthritis; Physiotherapy; Qualitative; Telephone; Telerehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / therapy*
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Report
  • Telephone*
  • Telerehabilitation*