We all know prescribed home exercise is a key part of patient recovery and rehab, so it can be pretty frustrating when patients do not correctly follow or comply with the prescribed program. Non-compliance with home exercise programs (HEP) can really hamper the overall goals you set for your patients. Limited progress equals additional clinic visits and ultimately higher healthcare costs. Needless to say, HEP compliance is a big deal.

Lauren Baier, a biology major at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, understands this—so much so, she focused her undergraduate thesis on the topic. 

Curious as to how to improve patient HEP compliance, Lauren turned toward the web. In other studies, researchers found that health apps and websites dramatically influenced self-care. Lauren wondered if the same was true for prescribed at-home physical therapy exercises.

Here at WebPT, we offer our Members access to an HEP feature that allows a therapist to create patient-specific at-home treatment plans. Members can email their patients the exercises along with supporting photos and videos. Working specifically with our HEP feature, Lauren examined how these emails influence HEP compliance.

Recruiting 29 fellow students as volunteers (59% female; average age of 23), Lauren randomly divided her sample into three groups. The first group was the control group, while the second and third groups were experimental. Each group received the same home exercise program, which consisted of five core and abdominal strength exercises to be completed every week over a 63-day period.

  • Group 1 (control group): Received HEP upfront; no weekly emails.
  • Group 2: Received HEP via weekly WebPT email. These emails included supporting pictures for the five prescribed exercises.
  • Group 3: Received HEP via weekly WebPT email. These emails included supporting pictures and videos for the five prescribed exercises.

In addition to determining weekly exercise completion averages for each participant (based on self-reported data), Lauren calculated the total average of exercises completed for each group. The study found:

  • Group 1 (no email) had poor compliance. The group average for exercises completed for each week was .92.
  • Group 2 (emails with photos only) had slightly better compliance results. The group average for exercises completed for each week was 1.10.
  • Group 3 (emails with photos and videos) had much better compliance results. The highest individual average per week was 3.22, and the group average was 1.68 exercises completed per week.

In her thesis discussion, Lauren considered the possibility that group three had better performance results because the videos gave the participants confidence in completing the prescribed exercises.

While the study was relatively small and would certainly benefit from subsequent studies, Lauren concluded that “sending therapy patients weekly WebPT emails with photographs and videos of the exercises in their home exercise programs may increase the number of times per week patients complete their exercises.” 

Increase in HEP compliance improves the likelihood of meeting general patient goals and therefore keeps costs lower. Met goals can also positively influence future referrals.

That's Lauren's thesis, but what about your own experiences? How does emailing patients photos and videos of at-home exercises influence patient compliance at your clinic? 

Want to learn more about WebPT's Home Exercise Program? Visit webpt.com/features/hep

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