Effects of a Community-Based, Post-Rehabilitation Exercise Program in COPD: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial With Embedded Process Evaluation
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OBJECTIVES: This manuscript (1) outlines the intervention, (2) describes how its effectiveness is being evaluated in a pragmatic randomized controlled trial, and (3) summarizes the embedded process evaluation aiming to understand key barriers and facilitators for implementation in new environments. METHODS: Participating centers refer eligible individuals with COPD following discharge from their local PR program. Consenting patients are assigned to a year-long community exercise program or usual care using block randomization and stratifying for supplemental oxygen use. Patients in the intervention arm are asked to attend an exercise session at least twice per week at their local community facility where their progress is supervised by a case manager. Each exercise session includes a component of aerobic exercise, and activities designed to optimize balance, flexibility, and strength. All study participants will have access to routine follow-up appointments with their respiratory physician, and additional health care providers as part of their usual care. Assessments will be completed at baseline (post-PR), 6, and 12 months, and include measures of functional exercise capacity, quality of life, self-efficacy, and health care usage. Intervention effectiveness will be assessed by comparing functional exercise capacity between intervention and control groups. A mixed-methods process evaluation will be conducted to better understand intervention implementation, guided by Normalization Process Theory and the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research. RESULTS: Based on results from our pilot work, we anticipate a maintenance of exercise capacity and improved health-related quality of life in the intervention group, compared with a decline in exercise capacity in the usual care group. DISCUSSION: Findings from this study will improve our understanding of the effectiveness of community-based exercise programs for maintaining benefits following PR in patients with COPD and provide information on how best to implement them. If effective, the intervention represents an opportunity to transition patients from institutionally-based rehabilitative management to community-based care. The results of the process evaluation will contribute to the science of translating evidence-based programs into regular practice.
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