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A new randomised control trial undertaken in three Australian hospitals in Sydney and Adelaide has shown that digitally-enabled rehabilitation is effective in improving the mobility of adults in comparison to traditional rehabilitation methods.

Published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the study – ‘ Digitally enabled aged care and neurological rehabilitation to enhance outcomes with Activity and MObility UsiNg Technology (AMOUNT) in Australia: A randomised controlled trial’ – explored whether digitally-enabled rehabilitation leads to improved outcomes amongst patients with restricted mobility in a large, outcome-assessor-blinded and pragmatic trial.

In the trial, 300 people aged between 18 and 101 with reduced mobility undertaking aged care and neurological inpatient rehabilitation were recruited from three Australian hospitals. The patients were then randomly assigned to one of two groups:

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  1. Intervention group (149 patients): Patients used digital devices to target mobility and physical activity problems alongside usual rehabilitation care, as determined by the clinicians
  2. Control group (151 patients): Patients just underwent usual rehabilitation care, as determined by the clinicians

The usual rehabilitation care consisted of both inpatient care and post-hospital rehabilitation care.

In the intervention group, devices used to target mobility and physical activity issues were normally prescribed by a physiotherapist and included: virtual reality video games, activity monitors and handheld computer devices. Patients used the devices for six months, both in hospital and at home.

Due to a few deaths unrelated to the randomised control trial, six-month assessments were completed by 258 participants: 129 intervention, 129 control.

Overall, the randomised control trial saw improved mobility in the intervention group compared to the control group from three weeks through to six months, with no real difference between the groups in how long was spent undertaking their assigned rehabilitation programme.

However, although improved mobility was observed within the intervention group, the study notes that no real difference was seen between the groups in terms of self-reported balance, confidence, quality of life and fall rates.

In conclusion, the study notes: “Use of digital devices such as virtual reality video games, activity monitors, and handheld computer devices can be enjoyable, provide feedback on performance, and may enable a greater dose of task-specific therapy to improve outcomes.

“Future models of rehabilitation should investigate incorporating digital devices to enhance inpatient and post-hospital rehabilitation, but prescription should ensure quality and quantity of practice.”

To read the full study, visit: https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003029

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