About six in ten U.S. adults said they would feel uncomfortable if their provider used artificial intelligence tools to diagnose them and recommend treatments in a care setting, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center.
Some 38% of respondents said using AI in healthcare settings would lead to better health outcomes while 33% said it would make them worse, and 27% said it wouldn’t make much of a difference, the survey found.
Ultimately, men, younger people and those with higher education levels were the most open to their providers using AI.
The adoption of AI tools to simplify processes and workflows is slowly occurring across all industries, including healthcare — though patients largely disagree with clinicians using those tools when providing care, the survey found.
The potential for AI tools to diminish personal connections between patients and providers is a key concern, according to the survey, which included responses from over 11,000 U.S. adults collected in December. Patients also fear their health records could become less secure.
Respondents, however, acknowledged potential benefits, including that AI could reduce the number of mistakes providers make.
They also expressed optimism about AI’s potential impact on racial and ethnic biases in healthcare settings, even as the technology has been criticized for exacerbating those issues.
Among respondents who believe racial biases are an issue in healthcare, about half said they think the tools would reduce the problem, while 15% said it would make it worse and about 30% said it would stay the same.
Hesitance toward AI in healthcare varied demographically, especially differing among gender.
Some 54% of men said they would be uncomfortable if their provider used the tools, compared to 66% of women, the survey found.
Younger adults and people with higher education and incomes were most likely to say they feel comfortable with their provider using AI.
Pew also addressed four specific applications of AI in healthcare, asking respondents how comfortable they’d feel if the technology was used for skin cancer screenings, pain management recommendations, mental health chatbots and surgical robots.
While a majority said they would want AI technology for skin cancer detection, large shares said they would not feel comfortable being the subject of the other use cases.
While public opinion on AI is still evolving, knowledge about the technology also determined patients’ hesitance levels.
Patients who said they have heard little or nothing about AI were more likely to be uncomfortable with their provider using them than those who said they had heard about them, the survey found.
Ultimately 75% of respondents said they are worried their providers are moving too fast implementing the tools without fully knowing the risks, compared to just 23% who said they are moving too slow.
“Though Americans can identify a mix of pros and cons regarding the use of AI in health and medicine, caution remains a dominant theme in public views,” the report said.