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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

A pilot randomised controlled trial of a Telehealth intervention in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: challenges of clinician-led data collection

Claire L Bentley1, Gail A Mountain1*, Jill Thompson2, Deborah A Fitzsimmons3, Kinga Lowrie1, Stuart G Parker4 and Mark S Hawley1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Health and Related Research, The University of Sheffield, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield S1 4DA, England

2 School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Sheffield, Barber House Annexe, 3a Clarkehouse Road, Sheffield S10 2LA, England

3 School of Health Studies, Western University, London, ON N6A 3B4, Canada

4 Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 5PL, UK

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Trials 2014, 15:313  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-313

Published: 6 August 2014

Abstract

Background

The increasing prevalence and associated cost of treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is unsustainable, and focus is needed on self-management and prevention of hospital admissions. Telehealth monitoring of patients’ vital signs allows clinicians to prioritise their workload and enables patients to take more responsibility for their health. This paper reports the results of a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) of Telehealth-supported care within a community-based COPD supported-discharge service.

Methods

A two-arm pragmatic pilot RCT was conducted comparing the standard service with a Telehealth-supported service and assessed the potential for progressing into a full RCT. The co-primary outcome measures were the proportion of COPD patients readmitted to hospital and changes in patients’ self-reported quality of life. The objectives were to assess the suitability of the methodology, produce a sample size calculation for a full RCT, and to give an indication of cost-effectiveness for both pathways.

Results

Sixty three participants were recruited (n = 31 Standard; n = 32 Telehealth); 15 participants were excluded from analysis due to inadequate data completion or withdrawal from the Telehealth arm. Recruitment was slow with significant gaps in data collection, due predominantly to an unanticipated 60% reduction of staff capacity within the clinical team. The sample size calculation was guided by estimates of clinically important effects and COPD readmission rates derived from the literature. Descriptive analyses showed that the standard service group had a lower proportion of patients with hospital readmissions and a greater increase in self-reported quality of life compared to the Telehealth-supported group. Telehealth was cost-effective only if hospital admissions data were excluded.

Conclusions

Slow recruitment rates and service reconfigurations prevented progression to a full RCT. Although there are advantages to conducting an RCT with data collection conducted by a frontline clinical team, in this case, challenges arose when resources within the team were reduced by external events. Gaps in data collection were resolved by recruiting a research nurse. This study reinforces previous findings regarding the difficulty of undertaking evaluation of complex interventions, and provides recommendations for the introduction and evaluation of complex interventions within clinical settings, such as prioritisation of research within the clinical remit.

Trial registration

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN68856013, registered Nov 2010.

Keywords:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Implementation; Pilot RCT; Telehealth; Telemonitoring