The effectiveness of telehealth programs in the administration of rehabilitation and the monitoring of postoperative progress after joint replacement is not well studied. The purpose of the present study was to systematically review the currently available evidence on the use of smart-device technology and telehealth programs to guide and monitor postoperative rehabilitation following total joint arthroplasty and to assess their impact on outcomes following surgery.
A literature search of the MEDLINE database was performed using keywords “mobile,” “app,” “telehealth,” “virtual,” “arthroplasty,” “outcomes,” “joint replacement,” “web based,” “telemedicine,” “TKA,” “THA,” “activity tracker,” “fitness tracker,” “monitor,” “rehab,” “online,” and “stepcounter” in all possible combinations. All English studies with a level of evidence of I to III that were published from January 1, 2010, to December 19, 2020 were considered for inclusion. Quantitative and qualitative analysis was performed on the data collected.
A total of 28 articles meeting the inclusion criteria were identified and reviewed. With regard to objective functional outcome measures, such as strength, range of motion, or results of the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test, the virtual physical therapy group had equivalent or slightly superior outcomes compared with in-person physical therapy. There was similar improvement overall in patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) and patient satisfaction between virtual and in-person physical therapy. Virtual physical therapy resulted in cost savings ranging from $206 to $4,100 per patient compared with in-person physical therapy.
Telerehabilitation following lower-extremity joint replacement is less expensive compared with in-person physical therapy, with equivalent outcomes and patient satisfaction. Telerehabilitation and electronic health adjuncts can be used to substitute for traditional rehabilitation and augment postoperative care following total joint arthroplasty, respectively. Telerehabilitation that provides outcomes equivalent to in-person physical therapy not only increases convenience for patients but also decreases the cost burden on the health-care system.
Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.