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Most Americans uneasy about receiving diagnosis or treatment advice from AI

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | March 24, 2023
Artificial Intelligence
Americans are uncomfortable with the rate at which AI is being adopted for use in healthcare.
Out of 11,004 Americans surveyed, 60% said they would not be comfortable with artificial intelligence diagnosing or recommending treatment for their disease.

Recruited randomly by Pew Research Center, respondents expressed concern about how fast AI is being adopted in healthcare and medicine, and said they would prefer if providers were more cautious and considered the consequences of AI adoption more.

Only 38% said using AI to diagnose diseases or recommend treatment would result in better health outcomes, while 33% said it would create worse ones and 27% said it would not make much difference, according to CNN.

Additionally, about six in 10 Americans said AI-driven robots should not perform parts of their surgery, and 79% said they would not want the technology involved in their mental healthcare. Another concern was security for healthcare records.

“The public isn’t deeply familiar with all of these technologies. And so when you consider their use in a context that’s very personal, something that’s kind of high-stakes as your own health, I think that the notion that folks are still getting to know this technology is certainly one dynamic at play,” Alec Tyson, Pew’s associate director of research, told CNN.

Conducted from December 12 to 18, the survey accounted for demographics, including race, gender, ethnicity, education, and political party affiliation.

But while skeptical, many did see some potential for it in healthcare, with 65% expecting it to improve accuracy for diagnosing skin cancers. Four out of 10 also said it would ensure doctors made fewer mistakes by making fewer assumptions. Some noted that it could reduce racial and class bias for more equal healthcare access, and were in favor of augmenting it, as opposed to it replacing human decision-making.

But because it is made with human input, experts caution that AI may in fact incorporate some bias.

According to Tyson, respondents who were more familiar with the technology were in favor of it, but cautious about the rate at which doctors are adopting it. Americans, he said, are already comfortable with its use for other services such as online shopping and may one day be more comfortable with it in healthcare.

“Whether you’ve heard a lot about AI, just a little or maybe even nothing at all, all of those segments of the public are really in the same space. They echo this sentiment of caution, of wanting to move carefully in AI adoption in healthcare,” he said.

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