How Understanding Consumer Views About Using AI in Healthcare Can Help Marketers

According to the recently-released results of a McKinsey & Company survey, 77% of respondents who work in the healthcare, pharma, or medical products sector say they have had some level of exposure to using generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). 

Although GenAI is relatively new to the scene, traditional artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for some time. But the explosive entry of ChatGPT — which is a form of GenAI — has increased awareness about the role of AI in various industries. 

In healthcare, AI is increasingly being used for a variety of purposes. But recent research indicates that some consumers have concerns about the use of AI in their care — and it may be helpful for healthcare marketers to know what they are. 

Morning Consult Report

A recently-published report from Morning Consult, “AI is Everywhere. But Americans Are Concerned About Its Role in Health Care,” notes that consumers are okay with the use of AI for some aspects of healthcare — but not others. 

“People are more likely to say they are comfortable with AI use for administrative tasks than for tasks like diagnosing an illness or developing a treatment plan,” writes health analyst Ricky Zipp.

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • “7 in 10 U.S. adults said they are concerned about the increase in the use of artificial intelligence in health care.”
  • “AI has been used in health care before ChatGPT took the spotlight, but consumers are still largely uncomfortable with the technology, especially when it comes to applications like diagnosing health issues or developing a treatment plan.” 
  • “Both health care workers and the public agree the use of AI in the industry will only increase. If companies grow their use of AI or implement it into their systems for the first time, the public wants to be notified.”

Among the results, that last point is one that may be most pertinent for healthcare marketers to keep in mind. 

“One major issue in health care is whether patients are notified when AI is being used as it could happen more ‘behind the scenes’ rather than right in front of them. …”, Zipp writes. “At least 3 in 4 adults said they want to be notified when AI is used for a list of services surveyed, and even more so for nonadministrative applications…”

He concludes with some sage advice.  

“As companies continue to work AI into their practices, it may be a benefit to do so cautiously as the overwhelming majority of Americans are still concerned about the technology,” Zipp writes. “Consumers are less comfortable with using AI for tasks that would directly impact their health, suggesting that it may take some time before people are comfortable with [its] use for diagnosis, treatment plans or procedures. If companies or providers do use AI, consumers have made it clear that they want to be notified.”

Pew Research Report

A Pew Research report published earlier this year uncovered similar results. Conducted Dec. 12-18, 2022, the survey of 11,004 U.S. adults found that 60% of respondents “would feel uncomfortable if their own health care provider relied on artificial intelligence to do things like diagnose disease and recommend treatments.” 

Pew Research notes that one factor that may influence such a view is the fact that “a majority of the public” isn’t sold on the fact that using AI in health and medicine will help. In this context, only 38% of those surveyed believe that using AI for diagnostic purposes and to recommend treatments “would lead to better health outcomes for patients generally.” In fact, 33% felt it would lead to worse outcomes and 27% said they didn’t think it would make much difference. 

Summaries of the detailed findings available in the report include: 

  • “Younger adults, men, [and] those with higher levels of education are more open to the use of AI in their own health care.”
  • “Four-in-ten Americans think AI in health and medicine would reduce the number of mistakes, though a majority say patient-provider relationships would suffer.”
  • “Americans who are concerned about bias based on race and ethnicity in health and medicine are more optimistic than pessimistic about AI’s potential impact on the issue.”

Pew Research also explored respondents’ views on “four specific applications” of AI in health and medical care that are either currently in use or being developed for increased use: 

  • AI-based tools for skin cancer screening
  • AI-driven robots that can perform parts of surgery
  • AI-based recommendations for pain management following surgery
  • AI chatbots designed to support a person’s mental health

For detailed results, please see the full report. 

Why this matters for healthcare marketers

With AI gaining so much steam, healthcare marketers will likely be faced with the need to address its use with consumers at some point. In that light, understanding how patients and prospects feel in this context can help to inform marketing efforts. 

For instance, based on the Pew Research Report, “Younger adults, men, [and] those with higher levels of education are more open to the use of AI in their own health care.” That type of information can support segmentation efforts by helping to inform targeted messaging for patients and prospects within those demographics. 

Or consider the information Pew Research gathered regarding the use of AI for the four specific applications noted previously. This type of information can help to inform content marketing efforts for related specialists who use AI in their practices.

But perhaps one of the most important findings to keep in mind is that which was uncovered by the Morning Consult poll: If AI is being used for various purposes, many consumers want to know that’s the case.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving marketing, please contact us today.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.

Published On: August 23, 2023

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