Is the public ready for AI in health?
17 October 2018
Everyone is talking about how healthcare can be transformed with the innovation and insights of AI and machine learning. Technology and digital solutions will undoubtedly bring huge benefits to the delivery of health. Clinicians will have more time to spend with patients, systems will become more efficient and resources will be freed up.
But how ready and willing are patients to go on the journey and what should healthcare providers be thinking about?
New research by YouGov for PwC has found that nearly a third (30%) of patients in the UK would be willing to have major invasive surgery performed by AI - in particular nearly half of young people (18-24) would be willing (43%). Men are significantly more willing than women – 39% compared to 22%. However, perhaps unsurprisingly, the over 55s are much more sceptical at just 24%.
But despite the AI hype, there’s still work to be done in healthcare to build trust among UK patients in this type of technology - 1 in 4 people can't see the benefits of using AI in healthcare at all.
The main concern that patients have is that AI lacks the ‘human touch’ and the human ability to look beyond data, and include context when making treatment choices. This demonstrates the importance UK patients place upon their relationship with medical professionals.
- quicker and easier access to healthcare;
- the ability to access and analyse more information than a human, enabling much faster and accurate diagnosis; and
- with the above in mind, better treatment recommendations would be made.
Even though patients are sceptical, the fact that nearly four in 10 would be willing to engage with technology in their healthcare experience signals a huge opportunity to transform healthcare delivery for the benefit of patients in the UK. In addition PwC’s report on automation last year estimated that healthcare and social work would be the biggest winners from AI, where employment could increase by nearly 1 million on a net basis, equivalent to more than a fifth of existing jobs in the sector.
Closer examination reveals significant potential in the UK market:
- the younger the demographic group, the more likely they are to see new health technologies in a positive light;
- well over half of 18 to 24 year olds would be willing to engage with AI and robotics to take care of some of their health needs.
If just a proportion of the UK population start to use more services delivered through technology it could begin to deliver savings by freeing up both staff and resources. This could, in turn, make a serious contribution to addressing the huge financial challenges facing the health system in the UK.