Background: Osteoarthritis and spinal pain are common and burdensome conditions; however, the majority of patients with these conditions do not receive care that is consistent with clinical practice guidelines. Telehealth models of care have the potential to improve care for osteoarthritis and spinal pain patients. The aim of this review was to assess the effectiveness of verbal real-time telehealth interventions, including telephone-based and videoconferencing interventions to reduce pain intensity and disability in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip and spinal pain (back or neck pain).
Methods: We searched seven electronic databases from inception to May 2018. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs), cluster-RCTs, and non-randomised controlled trials were included. Two review authors independently extracted data for each included study. Primary outcomes were pain intensity and disability. We conducted primary meta-analyses combining all conditions with similar interventions and comparators. Standardised mean difference (SMD) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using random effects models. We used the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool to assess risk of bias, and GRADE to evaluate the quality of evidence.
Results: We included 23 studies with 56 trial arms and 4,994 participants. All studies utilised telephone-based interventions. Only two studies used a telephone only approach and the remainder included educational materials and/or face-to-face components. We found no studies utilising videoconferencing. Meta-analysis showed telephone-based interventions (with educational materials) for osteoarthritis and spinal pain improved pain intensity (n = 5 trials, n = 1,357 participants, SMD -0.27, 95% CI [-0.53, -0.01], Tau2 = 0.06, I 2 = 74%; moderate-quality evidence) and disability (n = 7 trials, n = 1,537 participants, SMD -0.21, 95% CI [-0.40, -0.02], Tau2 = 0.03, I 2 = 56%; moderate-quality evidence) compared to usual care. Meta-analyses found telephone with face-to-face interventions does not improve pain and disability compared to usual care or face-to-face care alone.
Discussion: We are moderately confident that telephone-based interventions reduce pain intensity and disability in patients with osteoarthritis and spinal pain compared to usual care, but telephone plus face-to-face interventions are no more effective than usual care or face-to-face interventions alone.
Keywords: Disability; Intervention; Meta-analysis; Osteoarthritis; Pain; Spinal pain; Systematic review; Telephone.