BACKGROUND: Internet-based vestibular rehabilitation (VR) with physiotherapy support, known as blended VR, was effective in reducing vestibular symptoms in a recent randomised controlled trial. Blended VR is a complex intervention comprised of physiotherapeutic visits, the vertigo training website, and VR exercises. Because of these interacting components, it is important to understand how blended VR works, for whom it works best, and how it should ideally be delivered.
AIM: To investigate the experiences of both patients and physiotherapists with blended internet-based VR.
DESIGN & SETTING: A qualitative interview study was performed with patients who received blended internet-based VR with physiotherapy support, and physiotherapists who provided this support.
METHOD: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 patients and eight physiotherapists after the 6-month follow-up of the randomised trial. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and thematically analysed.
RESULTS: According to both patients and physiotherapists, the physiotherapist visits were useful in providing personal attention, helping patients safely execute exercises, and improving patients' adherence to therapy. Some patients said they did not need physiotherapist support and, according to physiotherapists, both the necessity and the optimal way to deliver guidance differed greatly between patients. The Vertigo Training website and exercises provided patients with a sense of control over their symptoms. Patients reported that the VR exercises were easy to perform and most patients continued to use them long after the trial ended.
CONCLUSION: In blended VR, physiotherapeutic visits appear to offer benefits above the vertigo training website and VR exercises alone. Physiotherapy support may best be used when individually tailored.