By David J. Blumberg

Artificial intelligence in healthcare is expanding globally, with recent reports showing that the market will be worth more than $27 billion by 2025 – an annual growth rate of 43.5 percent from the end of 2018. Among other factors, this dramatic growth is largely driven by the pressing need for cost reduction, the demand for more accurate diagnoses and improved patient outcomes.

Thankfully, consumers are mostly supportive and optimistic about the implementation of AI in healthcare. At Blumberg Capital, we recently conducted a survey of consumer opinions about AI in healthcare and found that 81 percent believe AI will improve patient care. Further, 82 percent think AI will improve healthcare data and increase collaboration between doctors and facilities. Eighty percent of consumers think that AI will have a positive impact on the healthcare workforce itself.

Not only are consumers in favor of more AI in healthcare, they expect healthcare organizations to leverage this promising new technology. According to survey findings, nearly 70 percent of consumers want medical providers to prioritize using AI for more accurate treatment and almost 60 percent want it to be used to reduce costs through automation.

Despite high rate of data breaches, privacy concerns are low  

What’s even more intriguing? Only 25 percent of consumers are concerned about privacy as AI is more widely integrated into healthcare systems.

On the other hand, the total cost of data breaches in healthcare is nearly four times higher than any other sector. In fact, healthcare organizations are regularly exposed to attacks that are then widely covered in mainstream media. Just recently a French hospital was subject to a ransomware attack against 6,000 computers in the network at their facility, bringing them to a standstill.

Despite such examples, consumer confidence is rising about the use of data to power AI models and deliver better service and value. This creates an opportunity for healthcare systems to innovate with the support of consumers. AI has the power to improve diagnoses, accelerate the pace of drug development, enable minimally invasive yet highly efficient surgical procedures and simplify the data flow to ensure better patient care, payments and compliance at a lower cost. AI can also be used in pattern recognition to find the best treatment and avoid dangerous, costly errors.

Consumers are not comfortable with all implications of AI

While survey respondents were overall very optimistic about the benefits of AI in healthcare, they do have some reservations.

Survey data showed that more than half of consumers are fearful of AI causing errors in hospital procedures. Specifically, 34 percent of individuals are concerned about mistakes that will lead to mismanagement of their healthcare (e.g. misdiagnosis, unneeded treatments, prescription errors or incorrect billing), while 18 percent are fearful of AI-powered robots performing and “botching” surgical procedures.

Results also showed that more than half of consumers do not use any type of healthcare technology service – including health tracking apps, Fitbits and telemedicine. This implies that there is a segment of the population that remains more comfortable with their healthcare data and records in file cabinets in their doctor’s office rather than online in a digital format.

Carpe Diem

Consumer optimism is rising. They expect more of their data will be used and they are optimistic it will help them in the near term and at a lower cost. We expect greater adoption of cutting-edge healthcare technology (targeting individual patient care and institutional solutions) as well as more funding of healthcare/ AI-related companies. One example from our portfolio is Medigate, a security solution for hospital networks that leverages AI.

The potential of AI in the healthcare industry to deliver major impact is here and now.   Consumers are increasingly open to and, in fact, demanding that care providers, insurers, hospitals and the entire industry adopt new technologies such as AI that can improve healthcare, reduce costs and minimize their concerns about the safety of their bodies and their data.