Australian citizens have, so far, only tasted healthcare AI hors d'oeuvres – and from what I can tell, they’re salivating over the prospect of the main course. Back in the kitchen, however, healthcare providers aren’t cooking fast enough, it seems. If used in a complementary role, rather than replacing human clinicians, artificial intelligence (AI) already enjoys a high level of acceptance among Australians. Respondents are very open to using it to manage their health at home, for example.
Accenture Health’s 2018 Consumer Survey on Digital Health reveals that the most popular menu item at this stage would be an AI home blood testing device for a variety of indicators (65 percent of respondents likely to use such a device). Next most popular: AI-powered virtual health assistants that help estimate costs and navigate the healthcare system (58 percent).
In other words, well over half of those surveyed would welcome certain AI-powered services already. This means a la carte selection not a fixed price buffet. They don’t want to wait around for governments or institutions to provide this one day – they want it now. At the same time, they’re not entirely without apprehension. The view from consumers seems to be that healthcare AI should start in the back office. As the collective knowledge, predictability and safety of AI increases, it could extend into other menu items. So, for example, 34% of Australian respondents still want to visit the doctor in person - 23% are worried that an AI doctor might not understand them properly and 22% say they don’t understand enough about how AI works to feel comfortable yet. Ignorance about AI definitely needs to be understood and addressed. For example, in terms of AI-assisted surgery, less than 50% of consumers would currently opt for it, but 56% said they would opt for it after learning about its benefits. It’s like public apprehension about eating raw fish being overcome when they taste deliciously prepared sushi.
Despite these reservations, many patients like the convenience of AI. More than half (53 percent) say they would use an artificially intelligent virtual doctor because it is available whenever they need it. Artificial intelligence is a welcome complement to clinicians and despite the research finding of slow AI adoption by providers, attitudes toward the use of AI are surprisingly favourable. Healthcare providers offering a choice, AI informed menu after hours may find customers consuming their services.