Patients Report Mixed Views on Health-Tech and AI

50% of participants see the tech as a great opportunity, while others see it as a danger.

Nearly 50% of patients consider biometric monitoring devices and artificial intelligence (AI) a great opportunity, while 11% view the technologies as a great danger, according to the findings of a study published in npj Digital Medicine.

Through open-ended questions, 47% of patients said they believe the technologies offer great opportunities and identified 47 potential benefits. The respondents said that health-tech could improve their follow-up and the reactivity of care (55%), reduce their burden of treatment (23%) and facilitate physicians’ work (21%).

“Coupled with the progress of AI, the thousands of data points collected from (biometric monitoring devices) may help in informing diagnosis, predicting patient outcomes and helping care professionals select the best treatment for their patients,” the study authors wrote.

One participant, a 35-year-old man with diabetes and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, said that new technologies are, “the only way for a physician to simultaneously take into account all multiple parameters necessary to adjust diabetes treatment: insulin sensitivity, duration of action, blood sugar levels, physical activity, continuous measurement…”

But others viewed the technologies as a great danger.

Just over 10% of patients identified 31 potential risks for the use of technology in healthcare. This group feared it could inadequately replace human intelligence in care (28%), represent serious risks for hacking (13%) or lead to misuse of private patient data by caregivers or insurance companies (14%).

A 60-year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia, said, “(We will need) to be extra careful about personal data. There are risks or drawbacks if some information is disclosed to social networks, banks, insurance or work. It will be necessary for patients to be educated on that.”

Some participants (20%) believed the potential benefits outweigh the dangers. Only 3% felt the negatives outweighed the positives.

More than 1,100 patients with chronic conditions, like diabetes, asthma and cancer, participated in the study between May and June 2018. In total, 50% of participants reported using mobile health tools for health, wellness wearable devices, medically prescribed wearable devices or health internet services.

The research team also evaluated patients’ readiness to integrate with four specific wearable devices and AI-based intervention:

  • Automatic analysis of photographs to screen for skin cancer
  • Wearable sensors for continuous and real-time monitoring to predict flares
  • Smart clothes and AI to guide physical therapy
  • An AI chatbot to assess symptom severity

Based on the results, 20% of patients with chronic conditions were opposed to using wearables and AI-based tools in any of the interventions. And 35% would refuse to integrate at least one existing or soon-to-be-available intervention.

Approximately 80% of participants were ready to use the technology for their care. But many did not want to use AI without human control. Patients were most willing to use AI chatbots to assist in determining how urgent their problems were (36%). Only 10% were ready to use the technology to screen for skin cancer.

The study authors noted that AI can outperform practitioners in analyzing skin lesions, pathology slides, electrocardiograms and medical imaging data.

AI algorithms that use data from wearables are also being tested to detect unknown diseases, predict patient outcomes and provide proactive interventions.

“Despite these good preliminary results, the real-world effectiveness of such interventions that occur outside of hospitals is still uncertain and will depend on patients’ engagement, uptake and adherence to these interventions,” the authors wrote.

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