Emerging role of tele-rehab: Efficacy and challenges


Diffuse Lung Disease and Transplant Network

Pulmonary Physiology and Rehabilitation Section

Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) is an essential component of the management of chronic pulmonary disease. Interest in alternate PR delivery methods has grown in recent years. The official workshop report of the American Thoracic Society (Holland AE, et al. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2021;18[5]:e12) identified 13 essential components of PR in response to new program models. They encompass patient assessment, program content, method of delivery, and quality assurance, and serve as a guide for successful implementation of emerging programs.

A recent study reported significant improvement in COPD Assessment Test (CAT) scores after PR in both in-person (n=383) and virtual programs (n=171). Similar improvements were found in health outcomes, attendance, and dropout rate (Huynh VC, et al. Chest. 2023;163[3]:529). Another concurrent 3-year prospective study enrolled COPD patients in standard PR (n=89) or community based tele-PR (n=177) at seven tele-sites and one standard site (Alwakeel AJ, et al. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2022;19[1]:39).

This study established the accessibility, feasibility, and safety of a community based tele-PR program and noted no differences between groups in 6-minute walk test or CAT score improvement. On follow-up, only tele-PR participants had persistent improvements of CAT scores beyond 1 month after completion.

Ongoing challenges with tele-PR include standardization of programs and of initial clinical evaluations that determine eligibility for them. Patients on home oxygen and those with exercise desaturation are often excluded, but they have the most potential for improvement. Studies are needed to determine the characteristics of patients who would benefit most from non-traditional models of PR.

Fatima Zeba, MD


Rania Abdallah, MD


Malik Khurram Khan, MD


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