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Consumers at Ease with Healthcare AI

April 11, 2018

While the buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) can seem ominous, consumers are surprisingly comfortable with the technology in healthcare. A recent survey found that when presented with a variety of real-world AI scenarios, a majority of people were at ease with AI in healthcare, and more comfortable with AI in healthcare settings than banking or retail.

Despite consumer comfort with AI in the medical industry, the SAS survey of 500 Americans found that a lack of human interaction was the top reason respondents cited for feeling uncomfortable with the technology.

Just under half of respondents (47 percent) were comfortable with companies using AI in business interactions generally, with men (53 percent) slightly more comfortable than women (43 percent).

Consumers were also confused about defining artificial intelligence. When asked if they could explain the concept to a friend or colleague, the survey found that fewer than half of the respondents – just 44 percent – said they could.

Data privacy is also a concern to those surveyed. Only a third of respondents (35 percent) were at all confident that their personal data used for AI was being stored securely. Those under 40 years of age felt more confident (42 percent) that their information was protected, versus just 31 percent of older respondents.

“Consumers feel positively about AI when they believe it’s being used for good,” said David Tareen, Marketing Manager for AI at SAS. “In this survey, healthcare scenarios were well-received, indicating that respondents were comfortable with a tangible benefit to the technology. Overall, a lack of understanding about what AI is and can do is a significant factor for those who fear it.”

A prescription for AI

AI technologies that assist physicians in patient care rated well with SAS survey respondents, even when asked about surgery. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed were comfortable with AI assisting doctors in the operating room. More than half of respondents over age 40 were willing to go under the knife with the help of technology, compared with only 40 percent under age 40. Six in ten participants (61 percent) were comfortable with their doctor using data from wearable devices, such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit, to assess their lifestyle and make recommendations based on that data.

Banking on AI

When it comes to dollars and cents, survey respondents were not comfortable with banks using AI to interact with them. Monitoring for fraud and other potential threats was the only exception, with 59 percent indicating they were comfortable with this use of AI. Accessing a customer’s credit history to make a credit card recommendation was the least popular among potential real-world uses of AI by banks.

Adding AI to the shopping cart

Retailers take note: Of the three industries suggested by the survey, AI in retail made consumers most uncomfortable. Only 44 percent surveyed indicated they were willing to share location information in order to personalize their shopping experience. And only 36 percent were okay using their smart phones to enter and shop in a cashier-free store. Respondents were more evenly split when asked if they were comfortable with online retailers using past purchase behavior to recommend new items, with 49 percent comfortable and 51 percent uncomfortable.

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