Promoting Physical Activity via Telehealth in People With Parkinson Disease: The Path Forward After the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Phys Ther. 2020 Jul 30:pzaa128. doi: 10.1093/ptj/pzaa128. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: There is mounting evidence in support of exercise and physical activity as a first-line approach to managing symptoms and potentially altering disease progression in people with Parkinson disease (PD). For many patients, a critical gap is the need for expert guidance to overcome barriers, set realistic goals, and provide personalized advice to optimize exercise uptake and adherence. The purpose of this case report is to describe a physical activity coaching program for individuals newly diagnosed with PD (Engage-PD) and to highlight rapid modifications made to this program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS (CASE DESCRIPTION): Engage-PD is a single cohort implementation study of a coaching intervention grounded in self-determination theory being conducted at Columbia University Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence in New York City, the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The project was uniquely positioned to be adapted to telehealth delivery and to address an immediate need for support and guidance in the home environment, including people with early-mid stage PD. Participants completed baseline and follow up (3 months) assessments, and participated in up to four coaching sessions all delivered via telehealth platform. The intervention incorporated 1: 1 coaching, goal-setting, physical activity monitoring, and use of a disease-specific workbook to promote and support safe exercise uptake.

RESULTS: While the program is ongoing, 52 referrals were reicieved and 27 individuals enrolled with PD in the first 2 months of the pandemic for a recruitment rate of 52%. Although direct comparisons with pre-coronavirus recruitment are difficult due to the recency of the Engage-PD implementation study, this recruitment rate was larger than expected, which may have been due to several factors (eg, most patients had limited, if any, access to in-person programs and therapy services during this time, so the Engage program filled an immediate need to provide exercise and activity guidance). There was a wide range of scores for both baseline physical activity and self-efficacy measures.

CONCLUSION: Remotely-delivered interventions may serve as a sustainable platform for physical activity coaching programs for people with PD as well as other neurodegenerative diseases.

IMPACT: With the uncertainty brought about by the current pandemic, this case report highlights the opportunity to shift the current model of care for individuals with neurodegenerative diseases such as PD.

PMID:32734298 | DOI:10.1093/ptj/pzaa128