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AI app to help back pain launches in UK

Friday 27th July 2018
A new app developed in Germany could now help reduce lower back pain in the UK.
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A smartphone app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help back pain sufferers has been launched in the UK.

Known as Kaia, it has been developed by physiotherapists, pain management experts and orthopaedic surgeons for Kaia Health in Germany.

Studies carried out by the Technical University of Munich and University of Munich have found that using it can help reduce lower back pain (LBP) by over 40 per cent, more than the clinical threshold of pain improvement. 

The research also revealed 40 per cent of those who start using the app go on doing so for six months, with the average person doing so 3.2 times a week. 

It works by using more than 120 different guided physiotherapy exercises, with motion tracking on the smartphone being used to ensure they are being carried out properly. Each session lasts 15 minutes and the service is available for 24 hours a day.

Medical practitioners are certainly not being made redundant by the app, however, as it includes a chat function that enables users to speak to a physiotherapist or sports scientist.

Founder of Kaia Health Konstantin Mehl said: "A holistic, multidisciplinary treatment of LBP using education and exercise has always been an expensive, resource-intense undertaking which makes it hard to integrate in health systems such as the NHS.

"By digitising therapy we're democratising access to effective treatment of LBP. This empowers and motivates individuals to take control, and self-manage their condition with evidenced-based, non-pharmacological, cost-effective alternatives that could save the UK economy billions each year."

The app has been downloaded 100,000 times in Germany and is now being offered free to 20 million people in the country thanks to an injection of funding from major health insurers. 

Britain's new health secretary Matt Hancock may be keen on its use in the UK. Earlier this week he spoke of the potential of digital technology such as apps to improve healthcare. 

He told the BBC Newsbeat programme there is "loads to do" in developing the use of apps to boost health. In his previous post as culture secretary, he became the first minister ever to launch an app. 

Written by Matthew Horton

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