The digIRENA in the fast lane: Encouraging preliminary study results
by Verena Kalb at June 28, 2022
Following a presentation at the Hauptstadtkongress on June 23rd, 2022, one thing is certainly clear: the preliminary results of a large-scale study on digitally intensified rehabilitation aftercare (digIRENA) are a cause for celebration.
These results show convincing evidence that rehabilitation aftercare with Caspar Health is highly effective. This is especially good news for our partner clinics, who can now expand their aftercare offer with Caspar Health based on convincing, scientific evidence. For the patients, on the basis of objective criteria for so-called “work ability,” the study shows that the aftercare does exactly what it should – providing patients with a higher chance of reintegration into working life.
For three of the study’s four measurement points, the preliminary results also show very good outcomes for patients’ self-declared health improvement. And, it is important to note that the digIRENA study is not just any study, but one of the largest of its kind on rehabilitation aftercare ever conducted in Germany.
This study also put the combined care model of Caspar Health within its aftercare offer to the test for the first time. Here, when it comes to combined care, Caspar Health is solely responsible for the entire aftercare phase of treatment, and the therapeutic and medical professionals at the virtual Caspar Clinic provide the personal care of those in rehabilitation.
Combined care from Caspar Health: digital therapy with personal care
A deeper dive into the study
digIRENA is a partially randomized, controlled study with 1,056 patients, initiated by the DRV Knappschaft-Bahn-See and the Institute of Sports Science at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The study was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales), who are funding the study as part of the federal rehabilitation program. This funding scheme is one of the largest in the last decades, with the goal of strengthening rehabilitation through pilot projects. In concrete terms, the aim is to test innovative services in order to better restore or maintain the gainful employment of insured persons.
The digIRENA study thus uses high scientific standards to address a very important topic. It examines the efficacy and practicality of the multimodal tele-rehabilitation aftercare offer, a combined care treatment plan that pairs time- and location-independent therapy based on Caspar Software with continuous care by a Caspar Clinic qualified specialist.
The study participants were assigned to three groups from several clinics (Paul-Ehrlich-Klinik Bad Homburg, Knappschafts-Klinik Bad Soden-Salmünster, Römerberg-Klinik Badenweiler, Knappschafts-Klinik Warmbad, Chiemgau-Klinik Marquartstein). The combined care (digIRENA), in-person aftercare (IRENA), and a control group without aftercare were all compared.
What exactly is being studied?
The study centers around one question: How effective is tele-rehabilitation aftercare with Caspar Health? This is measured in relation to the three main criteria of work ability, subjective health, and motivation.
As stated above, in addition to the combined care group, the study used two additional comparison groups. In the first, participants received the conventional IRENA – a classic “presence” aftercare treatment following medical rehabilitation in a rehabilitation clinic (generally 3 weeks). The control group received no aftercare treatment. In previous studies on rehabilitation, control groups have rarely been included in the study design, making it difficult to prove the effectiveness and the benefits of treatment measures.
What do the preliminary results show?
The preliminary results, which are already robust in their core findings, show very convincing results for the digIRENA group compared to the other two comparison groups:
- So far, for the measurement points of work ability and physical health, the study shows that combined care is significantly superior when compared to face-to-face aftercare.
- In terms of mental health, digital aftercare also shows the tendency to be superior.
- In terms of motivation, no differences can be identified between the three groups
Which points are still outstanding?
As of now, the results of three of the four data collection points have already been evaluated. This means there will be one more data collection before the final evaluation, which is expected in September, 2022. The first three measurement points are used to evaluate the developments during the rehabilitation aftercare itself, while the long-term benefits of the measures are examined on the basis of the fourth measurement point.
What do the results of this study mean?
So far, the preliminary results strongly indicate that combined care, with its time- and location-independent aftercare, not only closes gaps in patient care, but even performs better in crucial categories than face-to-face aftercare. This is especially important for the health of rehabilitation patients – especially when it comes to sustaining positive outcomes, facilitating further improvements, and helping them find their way to a higher quality of life.
The full evaluation of the study will provide valuable insights into the potential of digital aftercare programs in combination with individual therapeutic care as an alternative to traditional forms of therapy. In the end, this means that rehabilitation clinics gain a new, high-quality digital aftercare option for their patients in the form of combined care by Caspar Health.
For Caspar Health, the preliminary study results show that the approach of adding personal care from a qualified therapeutic and medical team to the digital offers during aftercare has been successfully affirmed. For the Caspar Clinic team of trained occupational and physical therapists, speech therapists, nutritionists, sports scientists, health scientists, psychologists and health managers, as well as physicians, these impressive findings are an important and inspiring form of recognition for their hard work.
"It was a great pleasure to experience the motivation of the patients. In many cases, these are people who wouldn’t have been able to do any aftercare at all without Caspar Health due to location or scheduling barriers," says Caspar Clinic therapist Momo Palme. "Additionally, participating in the study showcased a great willingness to contribute positively to the German healthcare system. The positive and constructive feedback from the patients showed us how much our offer is appreciated, while helping us to optimize it."
This September, the team of medical experts at Caspar Health look forward to adding another chapter to the growing number of studies on digital therapy – especially one that meets such rigorous scientific standards. All in all, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate these preliminary results – and to look forward to the final presentation of the study.