Feasibility of the Enhancing Participation In the Community by improving Wheelchair Skills (EPIC Wheels) program: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial
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BACKGROUND: Many older adults rely on a manual wheelchair for mobility but typically receive little, if any, training on how to use their wheelchair effectively and independently. Standardized skill training is an effective intervention, but limited access to clinician trainers is a substantive barrier. Enhancing Participation in the Community by Improving Wheelchair Skills (EPIC Wheels) is a 1-month monitored home training program for improving mobility skills in older novice manual wheelchair users, integrating principles from andragogy and social cognitive theory. The purpose of this study is to determine whether feasibility indicators and primary clinical outcome measures of the EPIC Wheels program are sufficiently robust to justify conducting a subsequent multi-site randomized controlled trial. METHODS: A 2 × 2 factorial randomized controlled trial at two sites will compare improvement in wheelchair mobility skills between an EPIC Wheels treatment group and a computer-game control group, with additional wheelchair use introduced as a second factor. A total of 40 community-dwelling manual wheelchair users at least 55 years old and living in two Canadian metropolitan cities (n = 20 × 2) will be recruited. Feasibility indicators related to study process, resources, management, and treatment issues will be collected during data collection and at the end of the study period, and evaluated against proposed criteria. Clinical outcome measures will be collected at baseline (pre-randomization) and post-intervention. The primary clinical outcome measure is wheelchair skill capacity, as determined by the Wheelchair Skills Test, version 4.1. Secondary clinical outcome measures include wheelchair skill safety, satisfaction with performance, wheelchair confidence, life-space mobility, divided-attention, and health-related quality of life. DISCUSSION: The EPIC Wheels training program offers several innovative features. The convenient, portable, economical, and adaptable tablet-based, home program model for wheelchair skills training has great potential for clinical uptake and opportunity for future enhancements. Theory-driven design can foster learning and adherence for older adults. Establishing the feasibility of the study protocol and estimating effect size for the primary clinical outcome measure will be used to develop a multi-site randomized controlled trial to test the guiding hypotheses. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Clinical Trials NCT01740635.
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