The majority of patients presenting to our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics have used internet search engines on their symptoms. Looking for quick answers they have asked questions on their diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options including Physical Therapy. The internet remains a fantastic tool for free information given its’ seemingly endless webpages of information, but its’ greatest weakness is the lack of peer review. Anyone with a website can add to this knowledge and these answers may be correct or incorrect, but add to the search engines results nonetheless. Mark Twain’s quote, “Be careful what you read in health books you may die from a misprint” comes to mind.
A recent research study examined the accuracy of the internet accessed by a popular AI website for patients with back and leg pain (lumbosacral radicular pain). Authors compared the software search with published clinical practice guidelines which guide Physical Therapists on the examination and treatment of a given condition given the evidence and expert opinion (Gianola et al. JOSPT. 2024). Authors asked questions on this condition to the AI software looking for answer reliability within a single search session and between search sessions, as well as, these answers accuracy compared to the clinical practice guidelines. They reported unacceptable internal consistency on all answers, but great reliability between search sessions. Importantly, the software search only agreed with established guidelines 1/3 of the time.