From hospitals to skilled nursing facilities, healthcare professionals are excited about the possibilities of artificial intelligence in the healthcare sector. Yet, while healthcare workers may be optimistic and eager to push forward with implementation, patients don’t always share their enthusiasm.
Recently, researchers conducted more than a dozen focus groups in an effort to gauge how patients feel about AI in healthcare. The findings suggest that although the participants were excited about the possibilities of seeing AI introduced into their healthcare, they felt trepidation as well.
As AI is increasingly relied upon in healthcare, it will be necessary to allay patient fears by demonstrating the benefits of the new technology.
Patient Worries about AI
According to the study’s results, patient concerns fall into several categories. Highlighting each one suggests possible methods of how to allay these worries.
- Patient Safety
Many of the participants seemed excited about the prospect of having some of their healthcare delivered via AI. Still, they seem to seek reassurance that safeguards are still in place. While they tended to feel that AI could help medical professionals treat and heal as many patients as possible, they stressed the need for comprehensive testing and a gradual introduction to the implementation of AI. In addition, study participants emphasized the need for regulatory protections and oversight against potential abuse through AI technology.
Study participants expressed the need for AI safety to be ensured by clinicians. For example, patients felt that their doctors and other members of the healthcare team should have final discretion over what treatments are used and how they are delivered. A majority of those participating felt that the AI needed to be a helpful tool rather than the determinant of what kind of care is received.
- Potential Increases to Healthcare Costs
Not surprisingly, many of the study participants brought up the impact of AI on costs. They presumed that AI technology would be expensive, and that those costs would be passed on to patients. Most acknowledged that AI could make care more efficient, but they wondered about the expenses of development and deployment of the technology in hospitals, clinics and skilled nursing facilities.
Patients also voiced concerns about how well the AI-delivered services would mesh with insurance coverage. They worried that algorithms used by the AI would recommend treatment that the patient cannot afford. Other participants wondered if insurance companies would start only approving and covering treatments that were recommended by AI, which would take final decision-making out of the hands of doctors.
Additionally, participants spoke about the ability of AI to gather massive troves of personal health information that could then be passed on to insurance companies. Could that information be used to deny coverage or increase premiums?
- Potential Threat to Patient Choice
The preservation of personal choice was emphasized by most participants. They suggested that the patient should have the right to opt out of AI-assisted healthcare if they desire. It was also mentioned that patients should retain the right to disagree with the AI findings and treatment recommendations.
Essentially, patients want to keep the right to have the final say in the medical care that they receive between them and their doctor.
The Future of Healthcare
It is clear that AI is going to take on an increasingly critical role in healthcare. The potential applications are many, and the technology may be especially beneficial because it will be easy to use and accessible, which may be particularly appealing to those in older demographics. As long as doctors and other clinicians remain the final decision-makers, patients seem to share their excitement regarding the possibilities of AI in healthcare.