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DigitalJun 24, 2024

Kathryn Levy explains how her physiotherapy background is being put to good use at Flok Health

In an exclusive PhysioUpdate Q&A, pelvic health physiotherapist Kathryn Levy explains what drew her into the digital field and outlines how Flok Health is preparing to launch its first AI physiotherapy clinic through the NHS later this year, after a series of successful trials.

Where did you study physiotherapy and when did you graduate?

I am originally from the US and completed all my training there. I initially studied for four years as an undergraduate at Colby College before attending Columbia University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy programme, where I graduated with honours in May 2009 to achieve my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. 

Physiotherapy was the 'obvious' career choice for Kathryn Levy, who graduated in the USA

Physique
Physique

What attracted you to the profession?

Like so many of us who are drawn to physiotherapy, I was inspired by my own personal experience. During my undergraduate degree, I studied dance and performing arts alongside biology pre-med. An injury during the latter part of my third year brought a difficult, long recovery. But it also introduced me to Pilates and physiotherapy for the first time. My interest in human science, rehab medicine, biomechanics, and exercise therapy, coupled with my love for movement, landed me where I am today. Physiotherapy was the obvious choice.

Tell us how your career developed after graduating

Immediately after graduation, I began working at Columbia Presbyterian in New York City, where I was fortunate to have amazing mentorship working with complex patients. I specialised early in paediatrics and jumped at the opportunity to work at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. My interests began to pivot towards women’s health as I spent more time on the maternity ward, helping women with high-risk pregnancies who were on bed rest and required 24-hour monitoring. I knew at that time where I wanted to focus my career, but life had other plans. 

My husband was offered a job at the University of Cambridge and we moved to the UK. I was fortunate to be able to register with Health and Care Professions Council easily after submitting my application, but had to wait nine months (which felt like a lifetime!) The healthcare landscape looks entirely different here, and I had to learn a new healthcare vocabulary. I started working in a private hospital in London and then Cambridge, before moving into outpatient musculoskeletal (MSK) care and pelvic health.

For the past eight years I’ve been working in MSK and women’s pelvic health, four of which have been spent in my own private practice in Cambridge. I also recently joined the team at Flok Health, who are building the UK’s first AI physiotherapy clinic.

My main responsibilities include identifying and evaluating patient needs, working closely with the software and design team to optimise patient experience, and ensuring our product is developed in a way that can safely support new clinical pathways for physiotherapy AI has huge potential to improve patient outcomes, address health inequalities, drive research initiatives, and contribute to a healthier society at large. But crucially, it is not intended to replace human physiotherapists altogether. Patients will always need to be seen and we will always see them.

What brought you to Flok Health and what is your remit?

For the past two years, I have been increasingly interested in the digital healthcare space, more specifically Femtech. I had begun exploring this through attending conferences and webinars, and connecting with interesting people via LinkedIn. And then Flok Health reached out. Their AI physiotherapy clinic is currently being used to assess and treat patients with back pain, but they were interested in my expertise in the pelvic health space.

I joined the team in October 2023 and my role has evolved a lot since. I am now head of clinical product. My main responsibilities include identifying and evaluating patient needs, working closely with the software and design team to optimise patient experience, and ensuring our product is developed in a way that can safely support new clinical pathways for physiotherapy. 

What are you working on at the moment?

We are preparing to launch our first AI physiotherapy clinic through the NHS later this year, following successful trials with a number of trusts and health boards. Product design is ever-evolving and we’re working tirelessly to optimise patient experience, as well as expanding our AI clinic to provide new clinical pathways. 

What three tips would you give physios who aspire to work in the digital field?

The most important thing physios need to understand is that we belong in this space. Unfortunately, there is an absence of physiotherapists’ voices within digital health. But our voices are incredibly valuable.

  • Think about the problem you want to help solve and then research to see if anyone is trying to solve it too. What are they doing? Who is on their team? If you think that you can add value, reach out and tell them why. If no one else is solving the problem, ask yourself if you can. You don’t have to go it alone; there is a lot of support, you just need to be willing to reach out.
  • Network, network, network! Put yourself out there and make connections by attending conferences, webinars, and any other events you can find. You need to know what is going on in the space and innovators need to know you. I am always surprised at how few physios are part of the conversation - this needs to change.
  • Start thinking about your transferable skills beyond the clinical. There are a wealth of invaluable skills you may already possess, from maths to programming and communication to design. Play to your strengths and have your elevator pitch ready

 

AI has huge potential to improve patient outcomes, address health inequalities, drive research initiatives, and contribute to a healthier society at large. But crucially, it is not intended to replace human physiotherapists altogether 

How do you think physiotherapy will evolve in the next 10-15 years?

Physiotherapy is always evolving; the physio I was 15 years ago is not the same physio I am today. In the next 10-15 years, our scope will continue to grow: there will be more evidence-based practice to guide our interventions and continued collaboration with industry. AI has huge potential to improve patient outcomes, address health inequalities, drive research initiatives, and contribute to a healthier society at large. But crucially, it is not intended to replace human physiotherapists altogether. Patients will always need to be seen and we will always see them.

AI is a powerful tool that will help us unlock clinical capacity to deliver more comprehensive care, operating alongside or in parallel with traditional human services to give greater scalability, patient choice and improved care. I’m excited to see what’s next. 

Kathryn Levy is a pelvic health physiotherapist and head of clinical product at Flok Health

To find out more about Flok Health's links with the NHS, read PhysioUpdate's recent article titled 'Digital physio could substantially improve the care and journey for some people with back pain'

Author: Kathryn Levy
Physique
Physique
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