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AI Special Report: What patients and doctors really think about AI in health care

Medical Economics JournalMedical Economics July 2023
Volume 100
Issue 7

Do people believe that AI can improve care and reduce costs?

A survey on artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots – such as ChatGPT – showed that both patients and health care professionals see the technology as having the potential to improve care and reduce costs.

AI survey results: ©Tierney -

AI survey results: ©Tierney -

The chatbots have quickly become popular tools for people looking for quick and accessible health advice, but questions about the reliability of the information remain.

The Tebra survey of 1,000 Americans and an additional 500 health care professionals lent insight into AI tools in health care.

Key findings included the following:

More than 1 in 10 health care professionals use AI technologies, and almost 50% have expressed an intent to adopt these technologies in the future.

Among health care professionals, ChatGPT received the highest score for best addressing patients’ questions.

Of health care professionals whose perspective shifted after reviewing AI’s medical advice, 95% had a more positive perspective.

8 in 10 Americans believe that AI has the potential to improve the quality of health care, reduce costs and increase accessibility.

1 in 4 Americans are more likely to talk to an AI chatbot instead of attending therapy.

One-quarter of Americans would not visit a health care provider who refuses to embrace AI technology.

For health care providers,
10% already use AI as part of their practice in some form, and half the remaining 90% said they plan to use it for data entry, appointment scheduling or medical research, among other things.

The integration of AI by providers may happen quickly, as 66% of respondents said they already know how the medical field could utilize tools like Med-PaLM 2 (Google’s medical research program) and ChatGPT. But although experts expect AI automation to improve efficiency, cut costs and increase accessibility, concerns remain. These include limits on human interaction, compromised data privacy and overreliance on AI by health care providers.

According to the survey results, these issues are likely why 42% of health care professionals do not feel enthusiastic about the use of AI technologies in the health care industry.

The average patient also sees the potential in AI. Most of the Americans surveyed (8 in 10) said they believe AI has the potential to improve the quality of health care, reduce costs and increase accessibility. One-quarter even said they would prefer talking to an AI chatbot over a human therapist. Of those who have already turned to ChatGPT for therapy advice, 80% felt it was an effective alternative.

Doctors refusing to embrace AI may see fewer patients, as one-quarter of the respondents said they would not visit a health care provider who refuses to use AI technology. The top reasons patients wanted AI in health care were that medical care would be delivered more quickly, there would be less potential for human error and it would provide access to remote health care.

However, patients also have some reservations about the technology: 53 percent of Americans felt that AI could not replace the experience of a human health expert, and 43% preferred human interaction and touch. Furthermore, 47% worried that AI may not yet be able to diagnose and treat health conditions accurately.

In a head-to-head showdown, the surveyed medical professionals reviewing health question responses from OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Bing AI awarded ChatGPT the highest scores. After examining the medical guidance provided by ChatGPT, 46% of health care providers reported feeling more optimistic about the use of AI in health care, according to survey findings. This represents a significant shift in perspective, with 95% of those surveyed indicating a more positive attitude toward AI technology in health care.

Todd Shryock is managing editor of Medical Economics.

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