Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: Transformative Potential

By Max Votek

Artificial intelligence brings vast potential to the field of healthcare, opening up possibilities that were once thought impossible. Within the next few years, we are likely to see massive strides forward across the worlds of healthcare and medicine.

Right now, companies and researchers are investing billions in unlocking this great potential. But how much does the general public understand about how close we are to transforming the way we provide healthcare?

Our study reveals that:

  • Americans are optimistic about the potential for AI to transform healthcare
  • Americans expect AI to improve diagnostic efficiency, make healthcare more efficient and improve patient outcomes
  • 2 in 3 Americans believe that AI will be better than humans at diagnosing medical conditions
  • Americans do not expect AI to replace doctors and physicians, but to make their lives easier

AI and healthcare: what America thinks

When it comes to AI, there are few fields that offer as much potential as healthcare. Already a growing body of evidence suggests that AI technologies will have a near-revolutionary impact when it comes to health outcomes, patient safety, and affordability of care.

Across the world, hospitals produce almost 4 billion medical images each year. In many countries, AI is already supporting doctors in analyzing these images quicker and more effectively, helping them to diagnose conditions like cancer at a much earlier stage than before.

AI is also enabling clinicians to prioritize their time on providing care. In America, hospital staff fill out around 12 forms for every patient they see. Now generative AI is able to extract data from patients’ records as well as record notes from patients’ appointments, freeing up millions of hours for doctors and clinicians.

Our study suggests that the American public is quickly waking up to the potential of AI to transform healthcare, with 48% of people already identifying themselves as optimistic about AI-driven outcomes.

Americans are also quickly putting their trust in AI as an integral part of the healthcare system. Overall, two-thirds of respondents said they trusted AI, with 17% saying they were fully confident in its abilities to deliver better health outcomes.

Crucially, though, Americans expect that AI will be a tool that supports doctors and healthcare providers, rather than a replacement for physicians in their own right, as you can see from our question on whether patients would be willing to follow advice from AI algorithms alone.

Envisioning AI’s impact on healthcare

As much of the Western world contends with the impacts of an aging population, AI will be critical for providing healthcare. Not only will AI technologies hugely expand our knowledge and options when it comes to precision treatments, but it will also help to combat workforce shortages in hospitals and elsewhere.

How well does the public understand this potential? When we asked Americans what they considered to be the main benefits of incorporating AI into healthcare the most popular answers were:

  • Improving diagnostic accuracy – 43%
  • Making healthcare more efficient – 43%
  • Improving patient outcomes – 29%
  • Increasing access to healthcare – 48%

The public’s ability to identify these benefits is clearly good news. But it’s always worth keeping in mind that these examples are only scratching the surface of what will be possible as we apply these kinds of efficiency savings across the wider healthcare sector.

In some areas, there is a much greater understanding of the future potential of AI. For example, 62% of respondents said that they expected machine learning to surpass human capabilities when it comes to diagnosing and treating conditions. 

Likewise, 53% of respondents said they expected that these new technologies would eventually help find an effective cure for deadly conditions like cancer. 

Patients are also able to understand how AI will transform the healthcare sector itself. Overall 58% of respondents believed that the impact of AI on healthcare providers would be more dramatic than its impact on individual patients.

Attitudes towards AI-developed drugs

One of the most important fields for AI healthcare will be the pharmaceutical industry, where tens of billions of dollars are invested every year in pursuit of new medicines and treatments that may one day transform the lives of patients affected by different ailments.

Right now, the process is extremely expensive and time-consuming, with new drugs costing around $2 billion on average. By applying AI technologies, pharmaceutical researchers can hugely streamline this process, using machine learning to match drug targets with molecules that can treat and cure diseases.

Our study shows that 1 in 4 patients is actively excited about this potential. However, this also suggests there is work to be done to raise public awareness of what could prove to be one of the most exciting applications of AI in the decades to come.

Four in 10 said they thought that AI would be able to accurately map and predict the effects of different drugs on the human body. But this number is likely to expand as more people become aware of the underlying power of AI in other areas of their lives.

The public also understands that incorporating AI into the drug development process will help make medicines more affordable in the long run, with 56% saying they expect to see the price of drugs come down thanks to AI.

How will AI affect healthcare professionals?

AI has arrived at a time when healthcare sectors across the Western world are facing up to a series of interlinked issues. A shortage of medical professionals, in particular in underserved and rural areas, has created obvious challenges for healthcare providers.

Meanwhile, the rising costs of healthcare, coupled with an aging population, have led to some providers having to do ‘more with less’ – a particular challenge given that the modern healthcare sector creates an unavoidable administrative burden for healthcare providers.

AI is braced to have a transformative impact in this area, turning many of these challenges on their head and making it quicker and easier for experts and professionals to provide and administer effective healthcare.

AI-powered tools can automate administrative tasks, like appointment scheduling and medical coding, freeing up doctors’ time for actual patient care. Meanwhile, AI can help doctors provide personalized treatment plans that take into account each patient’s individual data and circumstances. 

Our study suggests that patients are coming to understand this great transformation. Overall 43% of respondents do not believe that AI will see layoffs across the sector, with around 1 in 3 of those believing that AI actively saves jobs.

Likewise, 62% of patients do not see AI as replacing doctors in the foreseeable future. This is in line with the vast majority of experts who anticipate that – far from ‘replacing’ professionals – AI will enable them to work smarter and more effectively.

In the example of doctors, they will almost certainly have a role in supervising AI. But fundamentally the application of these technologies will help them to channel more of their energies and efforts into improving patient outcomes.

Final Thoughts

With the right supervision and process in place, AI has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare sector and deliver better patient outcomes at a much lower cost. Even better, these radical changes may be here even quicker than you think.

Given what’s at stake, it’s welcome news that the American public are already on board with the transformative potential of AI across the healthcare sector.

We know that the vast majority of people place huge amounts of trust in medical professionals. By harnessing the power of AI, those professionals will be able to supercharge their own efficiency, delivering even better outcomes for their patients and wider society.”

Max Votek

Max is one of the co-founders of Customertimes and also a trained pharmacist. He’s used his clinical knowledge to drive innovative tools that advance the life sciences industry. He’s committed to drive collaboration with pharmaceutical organizations around drug development, clinical trials, patient support, and field sales—all to continue the trajectory of innovation in the life sciences & healthcare sector.


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