Can artificial intelligence help patients manage chronic pain?

August 16, 2022  15:34

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective alternative to opioid pain medications for the treatment of chronic pain. But getting patients into these programs is not easy, especially because psychotherapy often requires multiple sessions and mental health professionals are in short supply.

AI-assisted pain therapy yields the same results as programs recommended by therapists, but requires significantly less time from the physician, making this therapy more accessible, the journal JAMA Internal Medicine writes.

Traditionally, cognitive-behavioral therapy is delivered by a therapist in 6 to 12 weekly face-to-face sessions that address patients' behavior, help them cope with mental health problems and restore their ability to function.

In the study, researchers recruited 278 patients with chronic back pain and divided them into two groups. One group received standard therapy through ten 45-minute phone sessions with a therapist. The other group received AI-assisted therapy, in which patients reported their symptoms via short daily automated calls. Depending on how they felt, the AI-assisted program recommended a 45-minute or 15-minute session with a therapist or a fully automated session with similar content but without the need for a therapist.

After three months, pain intensity and pain interference in patients were as good with the AI-supported program, the researchers said, and after six months, significantly more patients in the AI-supported group had clinically meaningful improvement in outcomes.

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