Patients Want AI But Not To Replace Doctors: Study

Medical patients in Europe and America are reportedly not at all ready to have A.I. or robotics replace human doctors, with fears about such an advance apparently stemming largely from mistrust of tech companies and lack of oversight. However, patients also seem ready to set the fear behind that sentiment aside when it comes to the use of technologies which would support nurses. That's according to a recent study conducted by Syneos Health Communications, which looks to bridge the gaps in the conversation surrounding the use of technology in medicine. The survey took responses from around 800 patients across three disease categories and a further 200 caregivers looking after individuals suffering from Parkinson's.

Among respondents to the survey - which included patients being treated for Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and atrial fibrillation - less than 20-percent reported seeing any benefit to their future health if care were to be provided by A.I.-driven solutions. As alluded to above, that seems to primarily stem from a lack of human oversight, with patients worrying about machine errors leading to health mismanagement. Moreover, in terms of trustworthiness, technology companies were ranked near the bottom alongside insurance providers as that trust pertains to providers of A.I.-powered virtual nurse assistants. Doctors, pharmacists, and hospitals rank highest. Interestingly, those fears and mistrust don't seem to carry over for nurses, however. 64-percent of respondents see a use for the technology in that segment of the healthcare industry. The perceived benefit of that would be access to 24-hour on-demand access to information and answers, health monitoring, and questions about medications. On the other hand, that A.I. would need to be specifically designed to sound human, with a "professional, warm, and empathetic tone." In fact, that voice is more important than a name, face, or gender, according to 72-percent of respondents.

Although the survey does not appear to have touched on the topic, it is interesting to note that the primary source of mistrust stems from health mismanagement. While that's not an invalid argument to make against the technology, it does seem to be almost entirely founded in an ethical dilemma. A.I. has the potential to be far more efficient and helpful to a patient's health, while also holding the possibility of removing a substantial number of errors related to human misjudgment, misdiagnosis, or malpractice. The fears remain in spite of that and the study provides insight into the main obstacle technology companies and even some governments are going to need to overcome in order to sufficiently appeal to those being treated for medical conditions.

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