Physiotherapy clinicians’ perspectives on artificial intelligence in clinical practice

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a cross-disciplinary field of research that attempts to understand, model and replicate intelligent decision-making in a wide variety of social and professional contexts. Research into AI-based systems is rapidly advancing in the domains of information retrieval and retention, problem-solving and reasoning, image recognition, planning, and physical manipulation in the case of robotics. In clinical practice we are beginning to see the introduction of AI-based systems that make use of computer algorithms to perform tasks that are usually considered to fall within the domain of human responsibility. These tasks can be found in the domains of computer vision in the analysis of CT and MRI scans, expert systems in support of clinical decision-making, better diagnostics and prediction of patient outcomes, enhanced administration and planning, and the use of robotics to perform physical tasks.

However, we currently know very little about how physiotherapy clinicians think about the impact of AI-based systems on clinical practice, or how these systems will influence human relationships and professional norms. As a result it is more difficult to prepare for the changes that are coming to clinical practice and physiotherapy education. It is with this problem in mind that Professor Michael Rowe at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) is conducting a study to explore how physiotherapists think about the potential impact of artificial intelligence on their own clinical practice. The conversation around this important topic is currently dominated by a very few voices and this study is an attempt to include new ideas from around the world.

The study has received ethics clearance from the UWC Biomedical Research Ethics Committee and is in the form of an online survey that is available at The questionnaire includes 13 open-ended questions related to the study topic and should take about 15-20 minutes to complete. More information, including the researcher’s contact details, can be found by following the link. The survey will be closed on the 30th of November 2019. Note that participants need not have an in-depth understanding of artificial intelligence to complete the survey

Page updated November 2019