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Consumers have appetite for weight loss drugs, optimism for AI

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A new KPMG survey shows high interest in GLP-1 drugs. Americans have enthusiasm, and concerns, about AI. KPMG’s Ash Shehata talks about the results and what healthcare leaders should think about.

Plenty of Americans say they are very enthusiastic about weight-loss drugs, according to a new consumer survey released today.

Image: KPMG

Ash Shehata, national healthcare sector leader for KPMG

KPMG has released its first “American Perspectives Survey,” which indicates growing optimism from consumers about their personal finances. More than half (54%) said they were optimistic about their personal finance situation over the coming year. KPMG surveyed 1,100 adults across America.

The survey also gauged consumer opinions on increasingly popular weight-loss drugs, and their thoughts on the rising use of artificial intelligence in healthcare. Consumers see plenty of upside in both weight-loss drugs and AI, although there are some concerns in both areas.

Judging by sales figures and seemingly ubiquitous television ads, there’s clearly a surging market for GLP-1 drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy (GLP-1 is the acronym for glucagon-like peptide-1). GLP-1 drugs are in growing demand among adults of all ages, and increasingly, younger people as the Associated Press reports.

Only about one-third (34%) of respondents said GLP-1 drugs aren’t important to them personally, according to the KPMG survey.

Among others surveyed, 35% said GLP-1 drugs would improve their health, including significant weight loss.

Ash Shehata, national healthcare sector leader for KPMG, says the enthusiasm for the weight-loss drugs is noteworthy, given that they haven’t been on the market very long. He pointed to the finding that 23% said those drugs are likely to be very important to their overall health and quality of life.

“That's a pretty big number,” Shehata tells Chief Healthcare Executive®. “And that is exactly the problem too, right? Because these drugs were never designed to be broad, mass-scale population drugs. If just 23% of the population were taking the drugs at the current reimbursement rate right now, we wouldn't be able to afford the entire healthcare system.”

“I always say the consumer speaks first,” Shehata says. “And whether or not the insurance plans are limiting their use, or putting prior authorization requirements, people will likely, in these kinds of numbers, still reach into their pocketbook and use the drugs if their provider gives a prescription.”

One in five surveyed said they think GLP-1 drugs are too risky, and that finding was consistent among all age groups. Shehata called that a “manageable number,” given that those drugs are fairly new. He thinks consumer skepticism will ease as more doctors are confident in prescribing those drugs.“Any new drug, you're going to see this kind of skepticism,” he says. “But I'm actually surprised it isn't higher, given that it is a relatively new drug launch.”

While many have enthusiasm for weight-loss drugs, most respondents had a limit for how much they would spend on them, the KPMG survey found. Few were willing to spend more than $100 per month out of pocket, well below the cost of some GLP-1 drugs.

“I do think there's still an economic bias towards what people are willing to pay out of pocket,” Shehata says. And he notes that $100 “is actually a sizable amount of money. You know, for an average American, that's $1,200 a year.”

Americans also have some enthusiasm for AI in healthcare, along with some concerns.

More than 50% of those surveyed said generative AI will offer some benefits in healthcare, such as answering questions virtually, or in scheduling appointments and getting refills of their prescription. Shehata called that a “pretty big number.”

“This amorphic ‘Gen AI' thing, which we're all trying to figure out, is giving people amazing hope. So I think it's huge,” Shehata says.

Of course, with consumers having high hopes of AI adding to convenience in healthcare, hospitals and health systems are going to have to meet those expectations, he says.

“People believe this is going to be amazing,” Shehata says. “And if the industry doesn't deliver on some of those promises, then the question is going to be, where does healthcare sit in that continuum now?”

Americans are still leery of AI’s role in the diagnosis of a health problem. Only a third of respondents (33%) said they were optimistic about AI leading to a more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Other surveys have found similar results. In 2023, most Americans said they were uncomfortable with the use of AI in diagnosis and treatment, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Patients may grow more comfortable with AI as doctors use it more, and explain to patients that it is being used to assist in reaching a diagnosis, rather than the final say in assessing and treating an illness.

“Providers need to start using it in a visible way,” Shehata says.

For example, clinicians could explain to patients that they are using AI to examine medical records, but they want more input from the patient to understand their condition.

“If providers really start to behave in that way and actually demonstrate the use of AI, I think we'll get that number up, but it's a bit early right now,” he says.

Shehata notes that consumers are showing they want a better experience in healthcare, and he adds, “They want technology in the middle of it.”

“The patient experience is something that everybody cares about,” Shehata says.

As health systems think about their digital front door, they should consider the needs of patients and the family members who are caring for them.

“The family becomes a big part of the experience,” Shehata says.

“When you talk about patient experience, and things like scheduling and appointments and refilling prescriptions, it isn't just the individual who's taking them, but it's the engagement of their whole family to make sure that they're getting access to care. And that to me, is multigenerational,” he says.

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