Combining the benefits of tele-rehabilitation and virtual reality-based balance training: a systematic review on feasibility and effectiveness

Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 2019 Jan;14(1):2-11. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2018.1503738. Epub 2018 Oct 14.


Purpose: A motivational surrounding is desirable in stroke rehabilitation considering the need to train repetitively to improve balance, even after discharge from rehabilitation facilities. This review aims to investigate whether it is feasible to combine virtual reality (VR) which allows exercising in game-like environments with tele-rehabilitation in a community-dwelling stroke population.

Methods: Literature searches were conducted in five databases, for example, PubMed and the Cochrane Library. Randomized controlled trial (RCT) and non-RCT investigating feasibility and effectiveness of VR-based tele-rehabilitation were included. Based on the risk of bias and study design, methodological quality is ranked according to the GRADE guidelines.

Results: Seven studies (n = 120) were included, of which four are RCTs. Evidence regarding therapy adherence and perceived enjoyment of VR, as well as a cost-benefit of tele-rehabilitation emphasizes feasibility. Equal effects are reported comparing this approach to a therapist-supervised intervention in the clinical setting on balance and functional mobility.

Conclusions: Tele-rehabilitation could be a promising tool to overcome burdens that restrict accessibility to rehabilitation in the future. VR can increase motivation allowing longer and more training sessions in community-dwelling stroke survivors. Therefore, combining the benefits of both approaches seems convenient. Although evidence is still sparse, functional improvements seem to be equal compared to a similar intervention with therapist-supervision in the clinic, suggesting that for cost-efficient rehabilitation parts of therapy can be transferred to the homes. Implications for rehabilitation The use of tele-rehabilitation could be a promising tool to overcome burdens that restrict the access of stroke survivors to long-term rehabilitative care. VR-based interventions are game-like and therefore seem to provide a motivational environment which allows longer exercise sessions and greater adherence to therapy.

Keywords: Stroke; balance; rehabilitation; tele-rehabilitation; virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Stroke Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Telerehabilitation*
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy*