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First NHS physiotherapy clinic run by AI to start this year

The first NHS AI-run physiotherapy clinic is to be rolled out this year in an effort to cut waiting times amid growing demand and staff shortages.

The new platform will provide same-day automated video appointments with a digital physiotherapist via an app that responds to information provided by a patient in real time.

It is the first platform of its kind to be approved by the health regulator, the Care Quality Commission, as a registered healthcare provider.

Patients seeking physiotherapy for issues such as back pain can be referred to the platform Flok Health through a community or primary care healthcare setting, such as their GP. They can also self-refer directly into the service.

The service aims to provide faster care and reduce waiting times and pressure on clinicians, those behind it say.

However, some in the industry say that AI cannot yet replicate the skill of a fully trained physiotherapist, and that treatment needs to be nuanced due to the complexity of cases.

CSP health informatics lead, Euan McComiskie, said of the AI clinic: “There is no doubt that more needs to be done to tackle huge NHS waiting lists, particularly for musculoskeletal services and AI has huge potential to be an adjunct to the work of physiotherapists. However, AI cannot yet replicate the clinical judgment and skills of a physiotherapist, who is required to be registered with a statutory regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).”

McComiskie added that physiotherapists manage “increasing complexity in patient presentation and their treatment needs to be individually tailored”. He said: “It is early days to know how much AI can eventually provide clinical decision making and more research is needed … but not at the cost of patient access, safety, experience nor trust.”

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Source: The Guardian, 9 June 2024


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