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Can Gen AI Improve Access to Care, Affordability? Patients Think So

Patients are increasingly using generative AI to explore access to care options, which industry leaders indicate could improve healthcare affordability.

Patients are excited about the future of generative AI in healthcare, as nearly half say the technology can improve patient access to care and healthcare affordability, according to a survey from Deloitte’s Center for Health Solutions.

The survey of over 2,000 adult patients in the US found that 53 percent think generative AI will be instrumental in improving access to care; another 46 percent said it could make healthcare more affordable.

This comes as healthcare explores the many uses of artificial intelligence to streamline processes amid a workforce shortage and pushes for a better patient experience. The “2023 Health Care Consumer Survey” from Deloitte contends that AI will be a key solution for both.

"At a time when health care costs are a growing concern for many consumers, our survey shows that they believe Generative AI may be the key to reducing costs, improving access, and leveraging it to improve their well-being,” Asif Dhar, MD, the vice chair and US life sciences and health care industry leader at Deloitte, said in a statement.

“Hearing from consumers gives us valuable insights into areas of key concern to adopt this technology across health care. Their perspectives can help us define a roadmap for adoption and industry role out that both helps to protect consumers and supports providers, payers and innovators to develop solutions that can drive optimal outcomes.”

Generative AI hasn’t reached peak patient engagement use levels yet, with 48 percent of patient respondents saying they’ve used the tool. But high utilization is on the horizon, as 84 percent told Deloitte they have heard of generative AI, and 69 percent said generative AI is either very or extremely reliable for communicating health information.

Overall, about a fifth of those who use generative AI for health use it to learn more about a medical condition. Another 16 percent used the technology to learn more about their treatment options, 15 percent to decipher technical language and medical jargon, and 15 percent to improve their well-being.

Deloitte found that individuals without insurance coverage were more likely to use generative AI, specifically to access healthcare. These patients were more likely to ask generative AI about healthcare, mental healthcare support, find-a-doctor services, and appropriate care sites (i.e., the emergency department versus urgent care). According to the Deloitte researchers, these patterns could indicate the potential for generative AI to improve healthcare affordability.

That said, folks who are uninsured are not as trusting of generative AI as their insured counterparts. While 51 percent of insured consumers rated generative AI as helpful, a third of uninsured respondents did the same.

But it’s not just consumer use of generative AI that could influence healthcare. Although researchers are working to understand how the technology could change the way patients learn about their healthcare outside of the clinic, plus how it could change digital patient-provider communication by way of chatbots, there’s also an application for provider use.

Patients are okay with their providers integrating generative AI into their clinical practice, particularly for supplementing provider explanations about health conditions and for reviewing or interpreting lab results. Far fewer patients are comfortable with their providers using generative AI for clinical decision-making.

What’s more, most patients agree that their providers need to be transparent about their use of generative AI, with four in five respondents saying as much. Deloitte indicated that these patient insights could help inform organizational policies around clinical use of generative AI.

"Generative AI is an important evolution in the digital transformation journey that life sciences and health care companies are currently navigating,” Bill Fera, MD, principal at Deloitte Consulting, LLP, said in the press release. “While it offers tremendous possibility for improving health experiences, access, and even growing the bottom line, organizations should prioritize governance and building a trustworthy framework that can not only be maintained but sustained to truly deliver on the future of health.”

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