Process evaluation of a maintenance pulmonary rehabilitation trial for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Derrick Lopez, Susan Jenkins, Nola Cecins, Cecily Strange, Joanne Cockram, Anna Collins, Holly Landers, Barbara Nattabi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract Background The ComEx3 community-based extended maintenance pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) randomised controlled trial (RCT) aimed to determine the optimal strategy for maintaining the benefits of exercise for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We conducted a process evaluation of this RCT to determine if the trial was implemented per protocol, and to explore the barriers and facilitators of the trial, and mechanisms of impact. Methods This was a mixed methods study consisting of analysis of PR class records, study diaries and interviews of those involved in the trial. We developed a reporting framework from available literature and performed a content analysis. Results Eleven of the 12 participants in the intervention group attended ≥70% of available classes before the trial was terminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Analysis of the study diaries found that adherence to the home exercise program was higher in the intervention than the control group. Analyses of interviews (n?=?21) highlighted the complexity of standardising the processes across multiple sites, but revealed behaviour change amongst class physiotherapists who were able to conform with the required processes. Facilitators of participation included the desire to improve function and quality of life, while barriers included illnesses and lack of motivation. Mechanisms of impact included confidence in exercising and benefits from the education sessions. Conclusions The ComEx3 RCT was implemented as planned largely due to commitment by the research team and the desire by patients to improve their quality of life by attending a PR program that they are familiar with. Successful implementation of PR RCTs requires good organisational skills, clear and consistent trial documentation, broad understanding of participant needs while being conscious of challenges experienced by people with COPD, and dedication by everyone involved in the RCT. So What? This article shows the importance of running a process evaluation alongside an RCT. Although this RCT did not progress to completion, this process evaluation which was guided by a robust framework, will provide guidance for future interventions in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue numbern/a
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Apr 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'Process evaluation of a maintenance pulmonary rehabilitation trial for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this