Consumers Don’t Trust AI —In Healthcare, That’s a Problem
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
As new health tech innovators rush to compete for the $14 billion available in venture funding, some companies are finding consumers to be a barrier to entry. Consumer uncertainty is a major challenge to startup innovators as they implement new technologies and processes in healthcare.
While it is true that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have the ability to revolutionize the healthcare industry (and already have), the advancements we have seen have not been enough to convince consumers of the benefits of AI.
Consumers may have been swayed by infrequent, yet high-profile, negative examples of AI at work. If AI is a brand, it has a lot of work to do to recover its image.
Some Consumers Struggle to Trust Simple AI Technology, Like Chatbots
Despite steadfast trust in AI by healthcare professionals, healthcare consumers aren’t buying in.
Most health industry executives, including 88% of those working in pharmaceutical and life sciences (PLS) and 78% in health services believe AI will be seen as a mainstream technology in their companies this year. Healthcare leaders will continue to prioritize AI development (74% expect to invest in AI over the next 3 years).
But, when it comes to consumers, attitudes differ.
Consider the consumer attitude regarding chatbots. One study examined 5 different healthcare chatbot apps by 5 different companies. Five hundred consumers evaluated these apps and then reported on their experiences. Many consumers felt that the diagnoses they received from the chatbots were untrustworthy and wanted to have a follow-up to ensure the results were accurate.
If consumers cannot trust technology as simple as a chatbot, they may have harsher opinions against advanced AI and ML technologies.
While consumer hesitancy is to be expected when new technologies emerge, it is up to healthcare providers to help consumers overcome their reservations.
Despite AI and ML Outperforming Humans in Healthcare, Consumers Still Struggle to Trust
Although studies have frequently concluded that AI is capable of outperforming healthcare providers in areas such as diagnostics, health tech innovators must work to communicate clear benefits to consumers. For example, some AI are able to diagnose heart disease more accurately than cardiologists.
Where consumers may be quick to adopt technologies for entertainment and lifestyle, health and safety technologies are met with greater hesitation. One interesting study showed that, when asked to choose between two healthcare providers who supposedly had varying performance in different types of diagnoses and procedures, participants strongly preferred human doctors, even though the AI was rated as outperforming those doctors.
Identifying consumer hesitancy requires a unique approach, as there is no one-size-fits-all rationale for why consumers distrust a particular technology. A few reasons are most common and include:
Consumer belief that AI provides unspecific treatment plans to their unique conditions
Consumer fear that AI is less accurate than a human decision-maker might be
Consumer misunderstanding about the applications of ML
Consumer distaste for a lack of human connection and empathy in delicate healthcare situations
To best understand consumer sentiment, it is important to run a primary research study on the target consumer group associated with a specific technology. For innovative health tech companies, a primary research study may help to pinpoint consumer hesitation and to facilitate an understanding of the ways innovators may break down these barriers.
AI and ML Is Growing Despite Consumer Hesitancy
AI, ML, and deep learning are projected to grow in the healthcare industry and these technologies will become mainstream in the near-term.
One study found that 88% of health industry executives in pharmaceutical and life sciences and 78% of those in health services see AI as mainstream, and 93% of them believe that AI has the potential for more positive than negative outcomes.
Even though those surveyed believed that there would be challenges, like privacy issues and even cybersecurity threats, overwhelmingly, they believe that AI is worth the investment.
Across the world, healthcare executives expect to invest significantly in AI and ML in the coming years.
In fact, in the US, 80% of healthcare leaders expect to invest in AI and ML technologies, with that number being matched or exceeded by Saudi Arabia (98%), India (94%), and Russia (85%).
Investments in healthcare technology continue to rise, with over $14 billion invested in 2020, and the pace is only expected to accelerate.
As AI makes its way into healthcare, it’s critical that healthcare businesses understand what consumers, and even healthcare providers, need to feel comfortable with AI and ML systems.
To that end, consumer research is critical. While traditional market research certainly doesn’t hurt, there are methods of harnessing technology to get more actionable insights that you can use to find out how to convince consumers of the benefits of AI.
Work With Incipient and Access Strategic Market Intelligence that Can Help Your Firm Make the Most of the Possibilities of AI in Healthcare
At Incipient, we handle secondary and primary research, competitor analysis, and consumer research. We help you understand how consumers will respond to new technologies in the healthcare industry.
We save our clients 25% on the traditional market research budget by harnessing innovative technology to derive actionable insights that you can use to reach business or consumer markets more effectively.
Learn more about what Incipient has to offer.