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Background: A computer game based Telerehabilitation platform has been developed to provide a seamless system for hand exercise and assessment in home settings for people with arthritis. The exercise program involves task-oriented training of real life object manipulation tasks performed with computer gaming. The platform will also be integrated with a telemonitoring, computer game based hand function assessment application. Objectives: 1) To determine test-retest reliability and convergent validity of the assessment application protocol in people with rheumatoid arthritis or hand osteoarthritis, 2) To conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial for assessing the feasibility, and therapeutic effects of the task-oriented training compared to conventional hand exercises, and 3) To qualitatively evaluate participants’ experiences on their respective exercise programs. Methods: Performance during three different object manipulation tasks was evaluated by the assessment application protocol on 40 people with arthritis. The performance measures were correlated with other common hand function measures. A six-week pilot randomized trial was conducted on 16 individuals with arthritis. The Arthritis Hand Function Test (AHFT), the Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaire, exercise compliance and task performance during three object manipulation tasks were the clinical outcomes. Focus group interviews were conducted on seven participants who had before received their home exercise programs. Results: The protocol demonstrated moderate to high test-retest reliability (ICCs between 0.5-0.84) of performance measures. Spearman correlation coefficients (rho) between task performance measures and other measures of hand function were low to moderate (0.4 < rho < 0.5 to 0.7). The pilot trial was not successful in terms of participant recruitment but demonstrated feasibility of study procedures, resources, and management. Except for two dexterity sub-scales of the AHFT, there were no significant differences in other clinical measures. Exercise compliance was >85% in both groups. The qualitative study provided initial evidence on the appropriateness, acceptance, perceived benefits, and a few practical difficulties in performing each exercise program. Conclusions: The hand function assessment application warrants validation in a variety of object manipulation tasks and in different patient populations. In order to proceed to a full-fledged trial, additional recruitment strategies, and revisions in the inclusion criteria must be considered.


Thesis / Dissertation