Feedback-guided exercises performed on a tablet touchscreen improve return to work, function, strength and healthcare usage more than an exercise program prescribed on paper for people with wrist, hand or finger injuries: a randomised trial

J Physiother. 2020 Oct;66(4):236-242. doi: 10.1016/j.jphys.2020.09.012. Epub 2020 Oct 14.

Abstract

Question: In people with bone and soft tissue injuries of the wrist, hand and/or fingers, do feedback-guided exercises performed on a tablet touchscreen hasten return to work, reduce healthcare usage and improve clinical recovery more than a home exercise program prescribed on paper?

Design: Randomised, parallel-group trial with concealed allocation, assessor blinding and intention-to-treat analysis.

Participants: Seventy-four workers with limited functional ability due to bone and soft tissue injuries of the wrist, hand and/or fingers.

Intervention: Participants in the experimental and control groups received the same in-patient physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Participants in the experimental group received a home exercise program using the ReHand tablet application, which guides exercises performed on a tablet touchscreen with feedback, monitoring and progression. Participants in the control group were prescribed an evidence-based home exercise program on paper.

Outcome measures: The primary outcome was the time taken to return to work. Secondary outcomes included: healthcare usage (number of clinical appointments); and functional ability, pain intensity, and grip and pinch strength 2 and 4 weeks after randomisation.

Results: Compared with the control group, the experimental group: returned to work sooner (MD -18 days, 95% CI -33 to -3); required fewer physiotherapy sessions (MD -7.4, 95% CI -13.1 to -1.6), rehabilitation consultations (MD -1.9, 95% CI -3.6 to 0.3) and plastic surgery consultations (MD -3.6, 95% CI -6.3 to -0.9); and had better short-term recovery of functional ability and pinch strength.

Conclusion: In people with bone and soft-tissue injuries of the wrist, hand and/or fingers, prescribing a feedback-guided home exercise program using a tablet-based application instead of a conventional program on paper hastened return to work and improved the short-term recovery of functional ability and pinch strength, while reducing the number of required healthcare appointments.

Trial registration: ACTRN12619000344190.

Keywords: Exercise therapy; Mobile applications; Occupational medicine; Physical therapy; Return to work; Telerehabilitation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Feedback
  • Finger Injuries*
  • Humans
  • Return to Work
  • Wrist