Early career researcher’s paper honoured in Faculty awards

A paper reviewing the merits of telerehabilitation for Chronic Respiratory Disease has won one of the six Monash Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences Faculty Early Career Researcher Publication Prizes 2022 (see detail of prizes in Monash intranet).

The global review by Central Clinical School physiotherapist/academic Dr Narelle Cox was awarded the Jenny Keating Prize for Nursing and Allied Health.

The awards will be presented at the MNHS Town Hall meeting on 15 September. Dr Cox, first author, said she was delighted to have been recognised by the prize. “I’m grateful. Such awards are nice recognition, but importantly valuable for future endeavours,” she said.

Dr Cox said the paper, published in Cochrane Library Reviews in January 2021, was the subject of a podcast also translated into Spanish, and that it has been presented at national and international conferences. The work has been incorporated in recent global guidelines for the management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

An international collaboration, the paper was the first comprehensive synthesis of evidence for using technology to deliver rehabilitation services for people with chronic respiratory disease. It was current as at November 2020.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a highly effective non-pharmacological treatment that combines exercise and education, and is typically delivered as an outpatient program. However, getting to a hospital to participate in the rehabilitation sessions – usually held twice a week for eight weeks – could be challenging, particularly for older people, those who didn’t have access to transport or patients who had work or family responsibilities.

Remote programs can improve access for patients, Dr Cox said, and allowed programs to proceed during COVID-19 times when centre-based sessions couldn’t be run.

The paper compared the emerging forms of telerehabilitation against traditional models.

“What we found was that of the literature that exists at the moment, these remotely delivered rehabilitation programs achieve outcomes similar to those of traditional centre- based in-person programs,” Dr Cox said. “We also found that more people were able to complete a remote program than a centre-based one.”

Caveats to the findings were that there were still a relatively small number of studies looking at the programs, and that the methods of telerehabilitation varied, she said.

Telerehabilitation programs are delivered by phone, video conferencing, online, mobile apps or a combination of methods.

A MNHS award reviewer commented on the paper’s breadth and noted that it was “important and timely”, given the recent increase in need for use of telehealth. “The applicant convened and led this large team of national and international authors,” the reviewer said.

The annual award offers up to six prizes across broad-based disciplines.

Dr Cox said the $1000 prize that forms part of the award – funds for use in research-related activities – will help continue work on novel models of rehabilitation delivery.