I recently received ethics clearance to begin an explorative study looking at how physiotherapists think about the introduction of machine learning into clinical practice. The study will use an international survey and a series of interviews to gather data on clinicians’ perspectives on questions like the following:
- What aspects of clinical practice are vulnerable to automation?
- How do we think about trust when it comes to AI-based clinical decision support?
- What is the role of the clinician in guiding the development of AI in clinical practice?
I’m busy finalising the questionnaire and hope to have the survey up and running in a couple of weeks, with more focused interviews following. If these kinds of questions interest you and you’d like to have a say in answering them, keep an eye out for a call to respond.
Here is the study abstract (contact me if you’d like more detailed information):
Background: Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that aims to embed intelligent behaviour into software in order to achieve certain objectives. Increasingly, AI is being integrated into a variety of healthcare and clinical applications and there is significant research and funding being directed at improving the performance of these systems in clinical practice. Clinicians in the near future will find themselves working with information networks on a scale well beyond the capacity of human beings to grasp, thereby necessitating the use of intelligent machines to analyse and interpret the complex interactions of data, patients and clinical decision-making.
Aim: In order to ensure that we successfully integrate machine intelligence with the essential human characteristics of empathic, caring and creative clinical practice, we need to first understand how clinicians perceive the introduction of AI into professional practice.
Methods: This study will make use of an explorative design to gather qualitative data via an online survey and a series of interviews with physiotherapy clinicians from around the world. The survey questionnaire will be self-administered and piloted for validity and ambiguity, and the interview guide informed by the study aim. The population for both survey and interviews will consist of physiotherapy clinicians from around the world. This is an explorative study with a convenient sample, therefore no a priori sample size will be calculated.
There seems to have been a resurgence in calls for the use of systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials in educational research lately. There’s a lot to like (in my opinion) about RCTs in certain contexts because of how they are designed. For example, when you want to figure out the effect of variable A on variable B, it’s a very useful approach because of the randomisation of the sample and the blinding of assessors and participants.
However, the method doesn’t translate well into most educational contexts for a variety of reasons, usually in the form of arguments for how RCTs in educational research are unethical and logistically difficult. I recently wrote a position paper with a colleague from Rhodes University where we looked at the argument against RCTs where we basically ignore the arguments just mentioned. We focus instead on how using an RCT pre-supposes an understanding of teaching and learning that is at odds with what we know about how learning happens. The article will be published soon in the African Journal of Health Professions Education. Here’s the abstract:
Randomised controlled trails (RCTs) are a valued research method in evidence-based practice in the medical and clinical settings. However, the use of RCTs is associated with a particular ontological and epistemological perspective that is situated within a positivist world view. It assumes that environments and variables can be controlled in order to establish cause-effect relationships. But current theories of learning suggest that knowledge is socially constructed, and that learning occurs in open systems which cannot be controlled and manipulated as would be required in a RCT. They recognise the importance and influence of context on learning, something that positivist research paradigms specifically aim to counter. We argue that RCTs are inappropriate in education research because they force us to take up ontological and epistemological positions within a technical rationalist framework that is at odds with current learning theory.
I just got back from an academic writing workshop at the Houwhoek Inn (their site needs some serious work). The point was to go there with an idea of an article you were going to write, spend 3 days writing it and getting feedback from the other participants and to end up with a draft that would be suitable for submission to a journal with minimal revision.
My article is based on a survey I did among the physiotherapy students in our department last year that looked at the knowledge and use of some of the most popular social software, including Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Digg, Delicious and Wikipedia. The idea was that if we’re going to use some of these services (like social bookmarking by subject, module, class, etc.) then it’d be useful to have an understanding of what the students already know and use. It would give us an idea of what kind of preparation we’d have to do before starting, as well as what level of use we could initially expect from the students.
It’s going to take me a little while to get feedback from the journal editor and reviewers, so it won’t be out anytime soon. I’m hoping that it’ll be published in the next few months though.
Here’s the abstract:
Institutions of higher learning are under pressure to respond to the changing needs of today’s learners and the use of information and communication technology has been at the forefront of that change. The use of social software that enables people to interact with each other in a dynamic way, has been identified as one possible approach. This survey sought to identify the knowledge and attitudes of South African physiotherapy students towards the use of social software in a physiotherapy department. The design was a cross-sectional, descriptive survey that took place in a university physiotherapy department in the Western Cape, South Africa. It included 135 students and used a self-developed questionnaire. Results showed that these students had a superficial understanding of social software. They did however, show an openness to new approaches and a willingness to interact with lecturers outside the traditional classroom setting. A lack of access to appropriate technology was identified as one possible factor for their lack of understanding. Any attempt to incorporate social software tools into this department would have to include significant training and support.
I just had my first research article published. It’s based mainly on the literature review I did for my Masters degree last year, with a few updates. It’s strange, but when I submitted it about 6 months ago, I thought it was a reasonable piece of work. Reading it now, I feel like taking it back and editing the hell out of it. Does anyone else look back at their earliest work and feel like hiding under a table?
I’m putting the abstract up here in case anyone is interested. The title of the article is “Information and communication technology in health: a review of the literature”.
Information and communication technology has been shown to be increasingly important in the education andprofessional practice of healthcare workers. The World Health Organisation (WHO) discusses the benefits of using ICT in the Primary Healthcare setting in terms of better access to information, improved communication between colleagues, facilitating continuing professional development and providing learning tools for healthcareprofessionals, patients and the community as a whole. This review of the literature describes the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in the education and professional practice of healthcare workers and goes on to outline the challenges facing the widespread adoption of ICT. The conclusion is that ICT does indeed have a positive role to play in both the education and professional practice of healthcare workers, including physiotherapists, as long as it is implemented as an adjunct to established and proven practice, and not a replacement.
This term has been a bit mental so far, which is why I’ve cut back considerably on the blog. Between clinical supervision, preparing for exams, extra courses and research, I’m finding it hard to keep up. It’s not permanent and once things have slowed down, I’ll get back into it. Here’s a brief update on what’s going on with me:
- My abstract for “Blogging as a reflective tool in physiotherapy ethics” (or something like that) has been accepted for presentation at the SAAHE conference.
- A quick review of the Ethics blogging assignment has been very positive and I’ve received some great feedback from students, who really enjoyed it. This is the project that the presentation mentioned above will be based on.
- The Mozilla Open Education course continues with minor technical problems. It’s difficult to stay on track with everything else that’s happening but the course participants are fantastic with documenting what’s happening, so I can always follow the main themes.
That’s it for now. I’m hoping to get back on track with the blog soon and in the meantime I’ll try to keep up with short posts like this that don’t need much research.