Dr. Dori Pekmezi, associate professor in the department of health behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health is collaborating with a team of researchers from UAB School of Health Professions and the Lakeshore Foundation to examine the convenience and appeal of using technology to provide exercise and or rehabilitation to people with multiple sclerosis.
[Photo: Dr. Dori Pekmezi]
Long-term exercise/rehabilitation is an integral component of the continual care for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). However, access to this care, which includes comprehensive exercise/rehabilitation services to people with MS, remains a significant challenge, especially in rural, low-income areas. Telerehabilitation, or what we refer to as teleexercise, can help fill service gaps for underserved MS populations in this region.
This pragmatic, cluster randomized controlled effectiveness trial will compare a 12-week, 20 session complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) intervention composed of neurorehabilitative (functional) exercise, yoga and Pilates delivered at home, using pre-loaded tablets and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system technology (TeleCAM), to the same intervention delivered in clinic by a therapist (DirectCAM).
Eight hundred and twenty people with MS are being recruited across Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Primary self-reported patient-centered health outcomes are: pain, fatigue, quality of life and physical activity. Secondary outcomes include four physical functioning measures: balance, endurance, gait, and strength. Each of these outcomes will be examined by age, race, sex, severity of MS and other demographics to determine if outcomes are beneficial across all groups (i.e., heterogeneity of treatment effect).
The researchers conclude that the project is important to people with MS and/or caregivers because it aims to reduce their barriers to receiving exercise treatment and increases the convenience and appeal of such programs through technology.