Will AI Have an Impact on Physical Therapy? What You Need to Know
With all the hype last week over Microsoft and Open AI, it has a lot of us thinking about what and how this technology will impact all aspects of life. And many people agree that there can be a lot of good, but also (maybe) a lot of bad outcomes from using this technology. So how will artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) impact the field of physical therapy? It's impossible to predict, but we can think of a few things.
Help clients access self-care faster. We have already seen people ask ChatGPT how to treat shoulder tendonitis or sprained ankles. And thus far its responses are not too far off. However individuals who get these injuries are not all the same and may not be returning to the same activities s. These factors can greatly change the course of treatment. But it's a good starting point to at least help an individual start treatment and take control of their health. After that a follow up with a professional is recommended.
Can help sort data and research. Because of the algorithms, ChatGPT has r the ability to sort though millions of research articles and studies in a matter of moments. From there, it can produce a list of studies and links to research to help PTs discern the latest and greatest treatment s. We still, as physical therapists, need to vet the studies to confirm they are addressing the topic of interest. Additionally, sample and effect sizes should correlate with the treatment population. However this technology can greatly expedite the process of finding studies that help our patients.
Improve treatment for uncommon injuries. As the AI model "learns" for our data it can help disseminate information about uncommon or abnormal cases across the globe. This will give physical therapists a better scope and understanding of treatment for uncommon cases. Professional judgement for treatment plans will still fall on the physical therapist, but using AI may broaden the options.
There is still a lot we need to learn about AI and NLP. And there will most likely be laws that prevent misuse or harm, but it is an exciting time with endless possibilities.
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Dr. Sara Mikulsky, PT, DPT is a Doctor pf Physical Therapy with over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. She is also a nutrition and ergonomic specialist. She works with clients in the New York City and Hudson Valley areas of New York State.