The medical startup Sword Health, specializing in pain management, announced a new artificial intelligence solution that guides patients through virtual physical therapy sessions.

Patient using Sword Health. Courtesy: Sword Health
Patient using Sword Health; Photo: Sword Health

Founded in 2015, Sword offers digital tools to help patients manage pain from home and avoid other treatments like opioids and surgery. Though the company has utilized AI in its products since its launch, CEO Virgílio Bento told CNBC that Phoenix offers users a more human-like experience.

The AI solution is called Phoenix, and it’s designed to replicate the work of a care specialist. Patients can talk directly to Phoenix about how they’re feeling, and the AI “specialist” can respond, offer feedback, and adjust the duration or difficulty of the session in real-time.

Sword patients can join sessions using a tablet from the company that tracks their movement. Phoenix monitors their progress, summarizes their performance data, and sends it to human clinicians for review after each session.

Though Sword’s AI can review movement and provide simple feedback, Phoenix’s ability to analyze patient data and generate recommendations helps clinicians operate more efficiently. Phoenix can also recommend changes for the patient’s next session, and a human clinician can decide whether to reject, accept, or edit the recommendations.

Sword’s clinicians still have authority over what exercises are ideal for the patient, so the Phoenix software doesn’t make any final decisions independently. According to the press release, Sword has already conducted more than 3 million AI-powered sessions with patients.

“This is health care, so you will always need that final approval,” Bento stated. “We have strong guardrails in terms of how we do things.”

Sword is available to patients if supported by their employer or health plan, but Bento said the company wants to make its solutions available to everyone. The company has been testing Phoenix with some patients using its “Thrive” digital physical therapy product, and it plans to continue testing it with more patients over the coming months.