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Healthcare Survey Balances Hype and Hesitancy for AI

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   May 08, 2023

A new survey finds that providers and patients see the potential in AI, but not just yet

AI tools like ChatGPT may have a place in the healthcare system of the future, but both providers and patients are wary of using them in their present form.

That's one of many takeaways from a survey of 500 healthcare professionals and 1,000 patients by Tebra, the practice management company formed in 2021 by the merger of Kareo and PatientPop. The survey shows an industry interested in the new technology, especially for improving efficiency and saving time, while also wary of the loss of human interaction.

According to the survey, one in 10 providers are now using AI technology, and roughly half have plans to adopt AI tools. Slightly more than half plan to use the technology for data entry, while 42% cited appointment scheduling, 38% listed medical research, 36% cited patient communication, and 35% picked either providing clinical notes to patients or as a virtual medical assistant.

When asked about benefits, 60% of providers surveyed cited increased efficiency, while 55% named cost savings by automating tasks and 45% noted giving time back to providers and caregivers. In describing the drawbacks, 55% cited less human interaction, half of those surveyed listed data privacy concerns, 49% noted an over-reliance on AI, and 44 % listed lack of human empathy.

Perhaps for those reasons, some 42% of providers surveyed said they were "not excited" about the integration of AI at this point, while 26% said they were excited and one-third said they were "moderately excited."

That's similar to how patients see the use of AI in healthcare, at least at present. While 80% of those surveyed say the technology has the potential to improve quality, reduce costs, and boost accessibility, only a third said they are moderately comfortable with a provider using AI to diagnose and treat a medical condition. Some 31% said they are slightly comfortable and 18% are not comfortable at all with AI being used in that fashion, while 12% a very comfortable and 4% are extremely comfortable.

When asked about the benefits of AI, patients mirrored the thoughts of their care providers. Some 63% cited increased efficiency, while 56% selected cost savings by automating tasks, 53% noted improved diagnosis and treatment, 45% cited research and development assistance, and 43% noted increased accessibility.

One area in which AI, and in particular ChatGPT, may have a more immediate impact is in behavioral health, which is struggling due to a surge in people needing help combined with a shortage of care providers. Some 25% of patient surveyed said they would be more likely to talk to an AI chatbot instead of attending therapy, and of those who have already used ChatGPT for therapy advice, 80% said that advice was an effective alternative to attending in-person treatment.

Roughly one-quarter of patients surveyed, meanwhile, went so far to say they wouldn't visit a provider who refuses to embrace AI technology.

Finally, 52% of the patients surveyed said they'd place their trust in the technology for faster care, while 47% said they'd visit a provider using AI to reduce the risk of human error in medical decision-making, 42% selected either telemedicine and more accurate diagnoses, and 41% said they'd go to a provider using AI for more access to advanced medical technologies.

When asked what would keep them away from AI in the doctor's office, 53% said a belief that AI technology can't fully replace the experience of seeing a doctor in person, while 47% cited concerns about reliability in diagnoses and treatments, 43% said they preferred the human interaction with a care provider, 42% cited data privacy and security concerns, and one-third of those surveyed see a concern with biased algorithms leading to unfair or discriminatory treatment.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


10% of providers surveyed are using AI now, and half have plans to use the technology in the future.

Some 80% of patients surveyed say AI has a future in healthcare, but only a third are moderately comfortable with it now.

Both see the value in improving efficiency, reducing costs, and improving provider workflows, but concerns remain about the loss of human interaction, data security, and an over-reliance on technology in healthcare.

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