Telerehabilitation for upper limb disabilities: a scoping review on functions, outcomes, and evaluation methods

Arch Public Health. 2022 Aug 23;80(1):196. doi: 10.1186/s13690-022-00952-w.

Abstract

Background: Upper limb (UL) disabilities have attracted worldwide attention due to the high economic costs of health care and the negative effects on the quality of life of patients with these disabilities. Telerehabilitation technologies are one of the most important ways to reduce rehabilitation costs and increase the quality of life of patients. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the role of telerehabilitation in improving the health status of patients with upper limb disabilities.

Methods: This scoping review was conducted by searching the Web of Science, PubMed, and Scopus until July 30, 2021. We used a data extraction form with 18 fields to extract data from primary studies. The selection of articles and data extraction was made by four researchers using a data collection form based on inclusion and exclusion criteria. Disagreements were resolved through consultation with the fifth and sixth researchers.Inclusion criteria were studies published in English, studies on upper limb disability, and telerehabilitation based on any technology (synchronous telerehabilitation, asynchronous, or both). Exclusion criteria were articles that did not focus on telerehabilitation and upper limb disabilities. Also, books, book chapters, letters to the editor, and conference abstracts were also removed.

Results: A total of 458 articles were retrieved, and after removing irrelevant and duplicate articles, 29 articles were finally included in this review. Most telerehabilitation was performed for patients with stroke (65%). Among the 15 different services provided with telerehabilitation technologies, "Evaluation of exercises and also a musculoskeletal function of patients by the therapist","Recording of patients' rehabilitation exercises and sending them to the therapist" and "Prescribing new rehabilitation exercises by the therapist" were the most widely used services, respectively. Virtual reality technologies, smart wearables, and robots were used to provide telerehabilitation services. Among the 13 types of evaluation used for telerehabilitation systems, "Evaluation and measurement of upper limb function" was the most used evaluation in the studies. "Improvement in musculoskeletal functions", "Increasing patients' interest and motivation to perform rehabilitation exercises", and "Increasing adherence to rehabilitation exercises and greater participation in treatment processes" were the most important outcomes, respectively.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate that telerehabilitation provides individuals with equitable access to rehabilitation services, improves musculoskeletal function, and empowers individuals by providing a variety of rehabilitation capabilities.

Keywords: Digital health; Disabilities; Rehabilitation; Telemedicine; Telerehabilitation; Upper limb.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review