At first, it seems improbable. How could a programme of internet-based exercises beat seeing your orthopaedic surgeon or physiotherapist? But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense, says Dave Duffy.
Your appointment has come through to see your GP or orthopaedic surgeon. You need to talk about your osteoarthritis. So you travel to the clinic or hospital. You park up and pay the fee. You wait in the waiting room. And eventually your turn arrives.
During the appointment, the GP or surgeon is eager to avoid surgery if they can. That makes sense – it’s less risky for you and there’s nothing to be lost by trying non-surgical options now because, if they don’t work, surgery will probably remain an option later.
You discuss exercises. The knee consultant demonstrates a few options that should help. Then you leave the appointment and, by the time you get home, you can only remember half of what was said.
A digital push
It’s against this very common backdrop that a new study using an internet-based exercise programme has demonstrated the potential to offer something new. Compared to a control group, the study group experienced decreased pain and improved function after 6 weeks. But why?
I believe the effectiveness of the study comes back to the traditional problems of the physical appointment system. In a single appointment, very few people will be able to remember all the advice and instructions they receive. But with a structured, digital tool, you don’t have to remember everything in one hit. You can revisit and repeat exercises in a structured way. What’s more, there’s no effort involved in getting your phone out and going through the exercises which, you would hope, would increase the likelihood that patients will do them.
This is only a small study sample and clearly more research is needed, but the potential is clear not just for patients but for health services too. Because when you get better outcomes from not calling patients to an appointment, everyone wins.
A digital approach is something that we’ve seen working throughout the pandemic. So if you’d like to have an appointment with a #kneesurgeon without having to travel to see them, ask us for a remote consultation.
Private appointments weekly at BMI The Duchy Hospital Harrogate & Nuffield Hospital Leeds
What Is Osteoarthritis?
What does osteoarthritis look like? What are the symptoms? And short of surgery, how do you treat it?