Abstract Background Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) is an effective intervention for the management of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, available resources are often limited, and many patients bear with poor availability of programmes. Sustaining PR benefits and regular exercise over the long term is difficult without any exercise maintenance strategy. In contrast to traditional centre-based PR programmes, telerehabilitation may promote more effective integration of exercise routines into daily life over the longer term and broaden its applicability and availability. A few studies showed promising results for telerehabilitation, but mostly with short-term interventions. The aim of this study is to compare long-term telerehabilitation with unsupervised exercise training at home and with standard care. Methods/Design An international multicentre randomised controlled trial conducted across sites in three countries will recruit 120 patients with COPD. Participants will be randomly assigned to telerehabilitation, treadmill and control, and followed up for 2Â years. The telerehabilitation intervention consists of individualised exercise training at home on a treadmill, telemonitoring by a physiotherapist via videoconferencing using a tablet computer, and self-management via a customised website. Patients in the treadmill arm are provided with a treadmill only to perform unsupervised exercise training at home. Patients in the control arm are offered standard care. The primary outcome is the combined number of hospitalisations and emergency department presentations. Secondary outcomes include changes in health status, quality of life, anxiety and depression, self-efficacy, subjective impression of change, physical performance, level of physical activity, and personal experiences in telerehabilitation. Discussion This trial will provide evidence on whether long-term telerehabilitation represents a cost-effective strategy for the follow-up of patients with COPD. The delivery of telerehabilitation services will also broaden the availability of PR and maintenance strategies, especially to those living in remote areas and with no access to centre-based exercise programmes. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT02258646 .
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