Global Survey Reveals Patient and Caregiver Perspectives on AI in Healthcare

New Data from Global Survey Reveals Expectations and Concerns of Patients and Caregivers Confronting a Future with Artificial Intelligence

Syneos Health Communications today released a report that provides pioneering perspectives into patients’ thought processes as they confront a future with artificial intelligence (AI).

The first of its kind research reveals that excitement over healthcare AI in the scientific and investor communities doesn’t necessarily translate into enthusiasm from patients and caregivers at the receiving end of AI services.

While more than 300 venture capital and private equity deals have funded healthcare AI experiments over the last five years, the conversation has been primarily led by technologists, scientists, or providers focused on the potential role of AI in predicting or diagnosing conditions. Until now, the missing component in this AI healthcare conversation has been patient and caregiver perspectives.

This report provides that missing link with survey research compiled across approximately 800 European and American patients in three disease areas – atrial fibrillation, Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer – and 200 caregivers for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Findings include:

  • Fears of AI in Healthcare: The survey indicates that the top two fears patients and caregivers have when it comes to artificial intelligence are lack of human oversight and the potential for machine errors leading to mismanagement of their health.
  • No Substitute for Your Doctor: When it comes to the possibilities of doctors being replaced by algorithms or robots, fears are clearly evident with fewer than 20 percent of patients surveyed perceiving any benefit to their future healthcare in receiving diagnosis or treatment recommendations from a virtual assistant.
  • Strong Comfort in Using AI to Scale and Support Nurses: Switch the focus to the critical role played by nurses in supporting patients, and a different picture emerges.
    -  Three times as many respondents (64 percent) would be comfortable with artificially intelligent virtual nurse assistants. The number one benefit is seen as 24x7 on-demand access to answers and support, followed by monitoring for their general health and wellness, or for questions around a specific medication they’ve been prescribed.
    -  Patients also have strong views on how “human” any virtual nurse assistants need to be. A ‘realistic voice’ with a professional, warm and empathetic tone is seen as appealing by 72 percent - more important than a human name, face or gender.
  • Appropriate Providers of AI: When asked to rank potential providers of AI-powered virtual nurse assistants in terms of trust, tech companies are toward the bottom of the list, alongside insurers. Healthcare providers such as doctors, pharmacists or hospitals rank highest.

“Syneos Health Communications believes that technology giants viewing healthcare as their next big opportunity must address patient and caregiver concerns about trust, control and oversight,” said Michelle Keefe, President, Syneos Health Commercial Solutions. “A structured and deliberate multi-channel marketing and communications approach will be essential to generate the desired efficiencies and behavioral outcomes AI can achieve.”

Syneos Health explored these issues with panelists from Verily, Verantos, Celgene, Prognos and Evidation Health at a panel on artificial intelligence in healthcare at the Digital Medicine & Medtech Showcase hosted in San Francisco in January. The report further explores how AI can play a role in adherence, clinical trials, at the pharmacy and includes implications for life science brands.

The report – “Artificial Intelligence for Authentic Engagement: Patient Perspectives on Healthcare’s Evolving AI Conversation” – is available for free download at In addition to the survey results, it also contains insights from follow-up focus groups exploring current ideas, expectations and concerns from these patients and caregivers.

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