Association between therapeutic alliance and outcomes following telephone-delivered exercise by a physical therapist for people with knee osteoarthritis: Secondary analyses from a randomized controlled trial

Belinda Joan Lawford, Kim L. Bennell, Penny K. Campbell, Jessica Kasza, Rana S. Hinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: The therapeutic alliance between patients and physical therapists has been shown to influence clinical outcomes in patients with chronic low back pain when consulting in-person. However, no studies have examined whether the therapeutic alliance developed between patients with knee osteoarthritis and physical therapists during telephonic consultations influences clinical outcomes. Objective: This study aims to investigate whether the therapeutic alliance between patients with knee osteoarthritis and physical therapists measured after the second consultation is associated with outcomes following telephone-delivered exercise and advice. Methods: Secondary analysis of 87 patients in the intervention arm of a randomized controlled trial allocated to receive 5 to 10 telephone consultations with one of 8 physical therapists over a period of 6 months, involving education and prescription of a strengthening and physical activity program. Separate regression models investigated the association between patient and therapist ratings of therapeutic alliance (measured after the second consultation using the Working Alliance Inventory Short Form) and outcomes (pain, function, self-efficacy, quality of life, global change, adherence to prescribed exercise, physical activity) at 6 and 12 months, with relevant covariates included. Results: There was some evidence of a weak association between patient ratings of the alliance and some outcomes at 6 months (improvements in average knee pain: regression coefficient −0.10, 95% CI −0.16 to −0.03; self-efficacy: 0.16, 0.04-0.28; global improvement in function: odds ratio 1.26, 95% CI 1.04-1.39, and overall improvement: odds ratio 1.26, 95% CI 1.06-1.51; but also with worsening in fear of movement: regression coefficient −0.13, 95% CI −0.23 to −0.04). In addition, there was some evidence of a weak association between patient ratings of the alliance and some outcomes at 12 months (improvements in self-efficacy: regression coefficient 0.15, 95% CI 0.03-0.27; global improvement in both function, odds ratio 1.19, 95% CI 0.03-1.37; and pain, odds ratio 1.14, 95% CI 1.01-1.30; and overall improvement: odds ratio 1.21, 95% CI 1.02-1.42). The data suggest that associations between therapist ratings of therapeutic alliance and outcomes were not strong, except for improved quality of life at 12 months (regression coefficient 0.01, 95% CI 0.0003-0.01). Conclusions: Higher patient ratings, but not higher therapist ratings, of the therapeutic alliance were weakly associated with improvements in some clinical outcomes and with worsening in one outcome. Although the findings suggest that patients who perceive a stronger alliance with their therapist may achieve better clinical outcomes, the observed relationships were generally weak and unlikely to be clinically significant. The limitations include the fact that measures of therapeutic alliance have not been validated for use in musculoskeletal physical therapy settings. There was a risk of type 1 error; however, findings were interpreted on the basis of clinical significance rather than statistical significance alone.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23386
Number of pages13
JournalJMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Exercise
  • Knee
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain
  • Physical therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Tele-rehabilitation
  • Telephone
  • Therapeutic alliance

Cite this