AI physiotherapists and physiotechnologists

Each month, the CSP’s professional advisers share advice and guidance on a topical matter. The professional body’s advice on: AI physiotherapists and physiotechnologists

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AI physiotherapists and physiotechnologists

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the use of computer science to simulate human intelligence. Computers are computing masses of data much faster than people. Machines will never replace physiotherapists but a physiotherapy service supported by AI brings huge benefits for patients and clinicians

Benefits for the patient

  • full access to the system containing records of all interactions with health and social care teams
  • full body analysis that highlights areas of concern and suggests areas for improvement to health and wellbeing
  • access to evidence-based diagnostic algorithms when experiencing new or different symptoms
  • prompt to take and upload appropriate pictures or video of their symptoms
  • optimised care and patient safety.

Benefits for the clinician

  • natural language recognition in the voice-based system, compiling the patient record in real time
  • digital review and sign off of notes which are immediately added to the patient record
  • appropriate referrals and requests sent automatically and changes in medication sent to pharmacy 
  • real time clinical decision-making support, using all available contemporaneous evidence.

Some services are already exploring the use of technology including AI but for some it seems unachievable or unrealistic. Of course there are challenges to overcome but when was something good ever easy? AI-supported physiotherapy services will be new and may take some getting used to for patients. However, the opportunities outweigh the challenges.

Opportunities for patients

  • services more responsive to patient needs
  • reduced – or no – waiting times
  • seeing the right person when you want to
  • increased opportunities for self management
  • preventative healthcare
  • personalised healthcare

Challenges for patients

  • it’s new and different
  • reduced/altered interaction with physio
  • dependency on digital devices

There are different challenges for clinicians in AI-supported physiotherapy services but again the opportunities outweigh the challenges.

Opportunities for clinicians

  • intuitive system so reduced admin time
  • improved patient flow
  • automated and immediate referrals
  • flexible working patterns
  • automated data collection 
  • genuinely integrated health and care service
  • digital skills in workforce
  • time to care for patients

Challenges for clinicians

  • it’s new and different
  • equity of access
  • reliance on digital literacy
  • access to hardware and software
  • IT support and connectivity
  • information governance

    What should I do now?

    • Not all clinicians are ready to make the move towards AI-supported physiotherapy services straight away. However, it is important to understand what the first few steps might be.
    • Read a paper by Chris Tack on possible application of AI in MSK physiotherapy 
    • Read NHS England’s AHP Digital Framework. There are similar documents in the other UK countries.
    • There are various different digital maturity tools available, which can help you understand where your service is and where work is needed. 
    • Find out who your local chief clinical information officer (CCIO) or clinical digital lead is and have a chat about how you can support their work.
    • If you are already involved in digital services and informatics then join the digital and informatics physiotherapy group.
    • If you are not and wish to be contact mccomiskiee@csp.org.uk for more information. 

    Technology-supported services are becoming more and more common and the role of the physio in these services is changing. Physiotherapists won’t ever be replaced by technology but we can be better physiotherapists if we embrace it. The future is coming. Do you want to be part of it? 

    Authors:

    • Helen Sharma is CSP Head of Practice
    • Euan McComiskie is the CSP’s Health Informatics Lead

    The CSP’s Professional Advice Service gives advice and support to members on complex and specialist enquiries about physiotherapy practice, including professional practice issues, standards, values and behaviours, international working, service design and commissioning, and policy in practice. 


     

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