It’s Virtually Reality: How Do Patients Feel About AI Handling Their Healthcare?

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are rapidly changing the healthcare industry. Physician surveys show they use AI in about 10 percent of their clinical decisions1. Let’s not forget that healthcare is about the patients, not healthcare systems or technology. So, how do patients feel about their doctor using AI?

A slim majority in the survey admit that AI, used properly, may enhance healthcare. However, a greater majority have strong opinions — including significant concerns. Most respondents were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about misdiagnosis, confidentiality compromises, fragmented time with providers, and higher healthcare costs.

Purveyors of AI say that it has the potential to revolutionize healthcare by addressing some of the challenges faced by health systems. Some claims made include:

  • Enhanced Care Outcomes: AI can analyze vast amounts of data. It helps clinicians make informed decisions, predict disease patterns, and recommend personalized treatments. By leveraging AI, healthcare providers can improve patient outcomes and enhance the overall quality of care.
  • Efficiency and Productivity: AI streamlines processes, optimizes resource allocation, and automates routine tasks, allowing healthcare professionals to focus on patient care. For instance, AI-powered chatbots can handle administrative queries, freeing up staff time.
  • Predictive Insights: AI can predict an individual’s risk of certain diseases. By identifying high-risk patients early, healthcare systems can implement preventive measures and reduce the burden on hospitals and clinics.
  • Access to Healthcare Services: Telemedicine and virtual health platforms, driven by AI, improve access to healthcare services. This is especially valuable in rural or underserved areas.

The public’s viewpoints on the use of AI vary across demographic groups, but there is a consistent concern characteristic of all groups. Most patients are uncomfortable with healthcare providers using AI to make treatment decisions. One study showed that 55 percent of Americans believe that AI can make healthcare better; six percent believe that it could make healthcare worse2.

Another issue consistent across demographic groups the study found is that patients want to be informed if AI played a big role in their diagnosis or treatment. It’s very important to 66 percent of respondents and somewhat important to about 30 percent.

A survey administered by the Pew Research Center found that 60 percent of the U.S. population would feel uncomfortable if their providers relied on AI. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open reported that 70 percent of respondents were somewhat to very uncomfortable with their diagnosis being generated by an algorithm that was 90 percent accurate, but doctors are unable to explain the rationale for its decisions. Other studies concur with the 70 percent reported by JAMA.

Public opinions about the use of AI vary with the type of clinical application for which it is used. According to another survey, these percentages3 of respondents say they are comfortable with AI doing some of the things their doctor usually does:

  • Reading your chest x-ray (54%)
  • Recommending the types of antibiotics you get (52.5%)
  • Making the diagnosis of pneumonia (48%)
  • Telling you that you have pneumonia (37%)
  • Making the diagnosis of cancer (31%)
  • Telling you that you have cancer (18%)

Moreover, patients are usually more comfortable with AI being used for diagnosis rather than communicating results. It may seem contradictory, but despite the majority of Americans being uncomfortable with AI, 40 percent of respondents believe that AI could reduce errors made by healthcare providers. About 27 percent believe that AI could increase the number of provider errors.

About half of Americans believe that AI would improve racial and ethnic bias in the delivery of healthcare. Fewer non-White respondents believe that AI could improve these issues2.

The patient-physician relationship is one of the dynamics in healthcare which is vital to favorable outcomes. A trusting relationship is reassuring to patients and rewarding for the physician. There is concern about the quality of the relationship being adversely affected by AI among 57 percent of Americans. Just 13 percent of Americans believe that AI could enhance the quality of the patient-physician relationship.

What Does A Doctor Think?

Americans are concerned that providers will adopt AI into their practice too quickly – faster than its pitfalls can be identified, thus resulting in consequences adverse to health.

I’m not eager to see AI invading healthcare more and more. I concede that it can be useful in diagnosis and treatment. For example, when running out of ideas, AI could generate additional possibilities, which are rare. It will work as a quick reference for physicians to use, such as searching for up-to-date antibiotic choices. When AI has suggestions, though, I’ll use them if they are in my patients’ best interests because that’s the bottom line — what’s best for their well-being.

AI, however, will not make house calls. It will not sit with the family at the bedside of a patient in her last few hours of life, reading scripture to them all. When my elderly patient wanted relief from the crippling pain of arthritis in her hands, so she could enjoy her 60-year high school reunion with her old girlfriends, I prescribed for her, off-label. At her next appointment, she was still glowing with the joy of her reunion weekend. It warmed me to the bottom of my heart that I got to be a part of that. My patients give me more than I give them just by trusting me to care for them. AI will not prescribe off-label.

StudyFinds wants to know your ideas, questions, and concerns about the use of AI, and your feelings about it becoming a routine factor in clinical care.

  • Do you think AI will enhance or harm healthcare?
  • Do you think AI will increase or decrease errors in healthcare delivery?
  • Do you want to be informed if AI is used in making decisions about your care?
  • Are you concerned about misdiagnosis, breaches of privacy, and/or increases in healthcare costs?
  • How do you think AI will affect your relationships with your physician or other providers?


1. Perspectives of Patients About Artificial Intelligence in Health Care – PMC (

2. How do patients feel about AI in healthcare? – Mobius MD

3. How AI in Healthcare is Transforming Patient Experience (

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About the Author

Dr. Faith Coleman

Dr. Coleman is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and holds a BA in journalism from UNM. She completed her family practice residency at Wm. Beaumont Hospital, Troy and Royal Oak, MI, consistently ranked among the United States Top 100 Hospitals by US News and World Report. Dr. Coleman writes on health, medicine, family, and parenting for online information services and educational materials for health care providers.

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