Artificial intelligence has become an essential factor in many industries, and healthcare is no exception. AI’s continued advances are helping medical professionals do their jobs more quickly and accurately, but what about the public’s perception of relying on this approach?
According to a study published by the Pew Research Center, out of 11,004 U.S. adults questioned, 60% expressed a majority of Americans would be uncomfortable if their healthcare provider relied on artificial intelligence for patient diagnosis or recommended treatments.
Why Do Americans Feel Uncomfortable With AI’s Healthcare Role?
Survey participants didn’t have strong beliefs that AI would enhance health outcomes for patients. Every third respondent revealed that they believe artificial intelligence would worsen patient outcomes, while 27% think it can’t make any significant difference. Only 38% of those surveyed believe AI’s assistance can lead to a better patient outcome.
There’s no doubt that the healthcare industry has already adopted many AI applications. Some include the following:
— Virtual health assistants. These include managing doctor appointments and patient data, filling out questionnaires that assess your health, and sending reminders about treatments. The idea is to reduce the need to visit hospitals and medical facilities.
— Targeted and recommended treatments. AI’s power to analyze large data quantities and use deep learning to recommend the best treatment for the patient’s condition can assist the healthcare industry.
— Automating redundant tasks. Artificial intelligence can handle time-consuming and repetitive duties such as administration or sending data to relevant medical professionals. With that, it allows healthcare experts more time to dedicate to the patients.
— Robot assistance in surgeries. Robots equipped with cameras, mechanical arms, or other surgical tools can improve overall surgery success. Surgeons can control a robot and get a magnified and enhanced view of the surgical point, which leads to less pain for the patient and reduces the risk of complications.
All these indicate that AI already plays a vital role in helping medical experts. The public’s view on this might have to do with the fact that people are unfamiliar with how AI’s healthcare assistance can improve the industry. As they become familiar with how we can leverage technology to provide better patient care, the odds are that the public will become more comfortable with medical professionals using it.
There are also positives in the Pew study. For example, about 40% of participants believe that AI’s assistance can help reduce human errors in healthcare. That means they trust using artificial intelligence to decrease the risk of prescribing an unsuitable medication dosage or treatment. It still remains that 33% think artificial intelligence doesn’t make a significant difference, while 27% of participants believe it will only lead to more mistakes.
Can AI Improve Patient-Provider Relationships?
The most significant problem for the patients remains their relationship with the doctor. About 57% of participants in the Pew study think that the provider-patient relationship would get worse if AI is recommending treatments and diagnosing disease. While 30% believe it won’t make a difference, 13% feel that AI can improve the relationship.
An important consideration is that the intention of AI’s healthcare implementation has never been to replace medical providers. Instead, the idea is to offer them a helping hand and ensure they have more time to dedicate to the patient.
AI’s healthcare suggestions only serve as guidelines, at least regarding patient diagnosis and treatments. It’s the medical provider who makes the final decision. And if they have more time to discuss important things with the patient while receiving suggestions from artificial intelligence, that could only lead to the best possible diagnosis and treatments.
It’s crucial to note that AI and technology play a role in the telehealth industry. Patients can communicate with medical providers via apps or the internet. Wearable smart devices can monitor vital health parameters and automatically report significant changes. All this helps in uncovering potential health issues in the early stages and optimizing treatment if necessary.
Does Perception of AI Implementation Depend on Age, Sex, or Education?
The Pew Research study clearly indicated differences across age groups. The belief that AI could positively influence patient outcomes drops as the age of participants increases. Over 40% of participants aged 18 to 29 think AI can enhance patient outcomes, but only 34% of those over 65 share that opinion.
Men seem more open to adopting AI technology in healthcare with 45% agreeing it’s a good move. Only 30% of women share that stance, although more women think it won’t make a difference (29%) than men (26%).
As for education, postgraduates have the highest rate of belief in improving patient outcomes with AI. About half of all participants with postgraduate degrees believe that this is a smart move, but that percentage drops to 42% with college graduates. Individuals with high school or less education have the lowest rate (31%) of thinking AI would bring better health outcomes.
There isn’t much difference in the percentage of white, Black, and Hispanic individuals believing AI’s implementation in healthcare is a smart move (35% to 40%). However, over 60% of all adults think that bias and unfair treatment based on ethnicity and race is either a minor or major problem in medicine.
The good news is that 51% believe AI could reduce bias, understanding that AI will only focus on analyzing the data, ensuring its neutrality compared to human prejudices. Around 36% don’t expect any change because a real person will remain the primary caretaker, or they believe AI is biased because humans programmed it to reflect their biases.
Is Healthcare Moving Too Fast in Adopting AI Tools?
The public seems to agree that AI healthcare is moving a bit too quickly for their liking, with three out of four surveyed sharing that medical experts move too fast using AI and machine learning technology. Only 25% believe that the industry is too careful.
The results vary slightly depending on how much the participants know about AI. Almost 30% of surveyed adults who claim to know a lot about AI believe that adoption should go at a faster rate. But that also means 70% think the industry is going too fast. About 75% of those who know nothing about AI and 77% of those who know a little share that stance.
Ultimately, it seems that artificial intelligence still has a long way to go until it proves to the public that it can be useful. The good news is that the healthcare industry will keep adopting tools based on machine learning and other AI technologies. As these applications become more widespread and reliable, the odds are the public will become more open and comfortable with those tools being present in the industry.