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Consumer acceptance of AI for clinical care is growing

The news: Consumers are cautiously optimistic about artificial intelligence (AI) being used in health and medicine, according to a recent survey from Pew Research Center.

  • More than 11,000 US adults were surveyed in December 2022.

Digging into the data: Pew’s research revealed findings around patients’ comfort levels with AI being used for clinical purposes, the tech’s ability to reduce medical errors and improve health outcomes, and more.

Here are our most relevant takeaways:

  • 60% of respondents said they’d feel uncomfortable if their own healthcare provider relied on AI for diagnosing disease and recommending treatments.
  • 39% said they’d be comfortable with AI being used for these purposes.
  • 38% said AI being used for disease diagnosis and treatment recommendations would lead to better health outcomes for patients. 33% said it would lead to worse outcomes, and 27% say it wouldn’t make much difference.
  • 40% believe that AI would reduce the number of mistakes made by providers, 27% said it would lead to more errors, and 31% said it wouldn’t make a difference.
  • 65% said they’d definitely or probably want AI to be used for their own skin cancer screening, and 55% said AI would make skin cancer diagnoses more accurate.

AI in clinical practice today: Radiology is the most common use case for clinical AI today. The tech can analyze x-rays and CT scans, helping radiologists quickly and accurately identify abnormalities.

  • AI adoption in radiology increased from zero to 30% between 2015 to 2020, according to the American College of Radiology.

Healthcare stakeholders are also experimenting with AI’s role in detecting disease and identifying at-risk patients.

  • Mayo Clinic and Mercy use AI to mine patient data to predict disease outcomes and form the best treatment plan for patients.
  • Klick Applied Sciences recently launched an AI/machine-learning process that needs just 12 hours of data from a continuous glucose monitor to determine whether a patient is prediabetic or diabetic.
  • Novartis and Anumana—a health tech division of EHR data company nference and Mayo Clinic—are building AI tools to detect cardiovascular disease.

Our take: Most consumers aren’t privy to how AI is used in healthcare since it’s typically behind the scenes like in radiology departments. Yet Pew’s survey shows that nearly 4 in 10 consumers still say they’re comfortable with the tech being used to diagnose disease and offer treatment recommendations. We see that as encouraging—especially when supported by the data point of most patients wanting AI to help with cancer screenings.

Healthcare organizations must be careful not to move too quickly and overpromise AI’s ability. If they do, consumers will become less trustful and less comfortable.

This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Digital Health Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the healthcare industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.