JAN 23, 2022 10:00 AM PST

A Chatbot Improved the Physical and Mental Health of Delayed-Surgery Patients

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world experienced widespread business shutdowns and shelter in place orders with the hope of curbing the spread of the virus early on. And as hospitals began to fill up with critical patients, though, non-essential care, such as elective surgery, was put on hold as well. That left many patients who needed certain surgeries waiting indefinitely to receive care they desperately needed.

But that doesn’t mean patients went without support. According to new research, patients who were waiting for knee and hip replacements, specifically, actually found support for both their physical and mental health from a rather unlikely source: a chatbot.

According to a study published in the Journal of Arthroplasty, researchers studied 90 participants for two weeks, each of whom had a knee or hip replacement surgery postponed.  Half of participants received two automated text messages a day from a “chatbot,” a computer designed to simulate human conversation and communication. The information in these texts was informed by acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). ACT is a psychotherapy technique that employs mindfulness and other strategies to help change an individual's behavior. Messages included language that was uplifting and reminding recipients to acknowledge pain but don’t let it consume them.

All participants received clinical assessments to monitor their overall health. When it came to mental health, researchers noted that more participants receiving the messages saw improvement in overall mental health compared to those who did not receive the messages. 

But researchers also noted something unexpected: significant, and positive, changes to participants' physical health, particularly joint-related pain. Almost 40% of participants receiving the texts saw a significant improvement in their overall pain levels.

The pandemic notwithstanding, the cancellation or rescheduling of surgeries is not uncommon. As the control group highlighted, knee and hip replacement patients often see a clinical decline in mental wellbeing and physical health while waiting for surgeries to be scheduled. As such, researchers believe their chatbot tool could be an effective tool for helping maintain a patient’s health leading up to a surgery. 

Sources: EurekaAlert!; Journal of Arthroplasty; Positive Psychology

About the Author
Professional Writing
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
You May Also Like
OCT 11, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
Researchers Discover Method of Synthesizing a Cancer Drug Discovered in the Australian Rainforest
OCT 11, 2022
Researchers Discover Method of Synthesizing a Cancer Drug Discovered in the Australian Rainforest
Tigilanol tiglate (also referred to as EBC-46) is a chemical compound with a storied history. Found naturally in the see ...
NOV 11, 2022
Technology
New, Lost-cost Tool for Newborn Hearing Screening
NOV 11, 2022
New, Lost-cost Tool for Newborn Hearing Screening
Newborn hearing screening are important health tests. They help detect any potential hearing problems and allow children ...
NOV 18, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Grad Student Highlights: Marc Berghouse (University of Nevada, Reno)
NOV 18, 2022
Grad Student Highlights: Marc Berghouse (University of Nevada, Reno)
This interview series is focused on the graduate student experience across all STEM fields that allows them to get their ...
NOV 16, 2022
Earth & The Environment
New Details About Earth's First Mass Extinction Unveiled by Geobiologists
NOV 16, 2022
New Details About Earth's First Mass Extinction Unveiled by Geobiologists
In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers led by Virgini ...
NOV 14, 2022
Cancer
Breast Cancer Vaccine Shows Promise as it Enters Phase 2 Trial
NOV 14, 2022
Breast Cancer Vaccine Shows Promise as it Enters Phase 2 Trial
About 20% of breast cancers exhibit elevated levels of a protein known as HER2.  You may have heard the classifier ...
DEC 01, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
The Impact of AI on Drug Discovery
DEC 01, 2022
The Impact of AI on Drug Discovery
Artificial Intelligence, also known as “AI”, has been the talk of the past year. AI performs and responds to ...
Loading Comments...