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Brits with back pain will soon be treated by AI physiotherapists

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is set to roll out a partnership with Flok Health, the country's first AI-powered physiotherapy clinic, in an effort to reduce waiting times and alleviate pressure on healthcare providers. Flok's platform, which has been approved as a registered healthcare provider, will offer NHS patients same-day access to automated video appointments with an AI physiotherapist via a smartphone app.

Patients seeking treatment for back pain can be referred to Flok Health through their primary care physician or can self-refer directly to the service. During an initial video assessment, the AI physiotherapist evaluates the patient's symptoms and, if approved for treatment, provides on-demand video appointments, prescribes exercises and pain management techniques and adjusts treatments based on the patient's progress.

For now, Flok has only been authorized to treat back pain, but it's working on clinics for other musculoskeletal conditions. The service will be introduced later this year.

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While health professionals are expressing concern that AI might miss underlying issues or won't be able to handle complex presentations, the Guardian reports that patients in pilot studies viewed their treatment positively: "All of those surveyed patients from the NHS pilot said their experience with Flok had been at least equivalent to seeing a human physiotherapist, and 57% of patients said they thought the AI experience was better."

The need for novel solutions is undeniable, as healthcare systems worldwide are straining under increased demand and limited resources. Services like Flok could be a game-changer, offering scalable yet personalized treatment to a broader population, including people in underserved areas. If successful, AI-powered clinicians could reduce wait times while allowing human professionals to focus on complex cases.