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How docs can build patient trust in generative AI use

Providers and community health partners might be instrumental in building patient trust in generative AI and encouraging use.

Patients still aren't all in on generative AI in healthcare, according to new Deloitte data, but experts posited that this problem might be solvable with provider endorsements and community health partnerships.

The survey of 2,000 adults showed that patient use of GenAI for healthcare is actually getting lower. While 37% said they used GenAI for health reasons in 2024, that's lower than the 40% who said the same in 2023.

According to the survey authors, this downswing in utilization is likely a patient trust issue.

"These organizations handle highly sensitive, personal data, and decisions based on AI outputs can have life-altering consequences on people and their health," the Deloitte authors explained. "Therefore, it's critically important to ensure that AI-generated results are both accurate and reliable."

Indeed, patient trust in GenAI is going down, the survey showed. Three in 10 respondents said they distrust the information that GenAI provides, up from 23% who said the same in 2023. Distrust in GenAI was more common among millennials (30%) and baby boomers (32%).

"Due to the continually developing nature of the technology, these versions may sometimes provide inaccurate information, which can lead to diminished consumer trust," the Deloitte authors pointed out. "This presents an opportunity for health care organizations to bolster trust by educating consumers, providing them with GenAI tools specifically designed for health care applications, and addressing privacy concerns."

Patient trust in GenAI relies on provider testimony

Foremost, healthcare organizations should tap providers as messengers about the efficacy and use cases for GenAI, the report authors recommended.

After all, 74% of patients said their provider is their most trusted source for health information, and another 71% said they trust their doctors to use GenAI to discuss new treatments. Meanwhile, 65% said they trust their doctors to use the technology to interpret diagnostic results, and 53% said they trust it to diagnose conditions.

Healthcare providers can help patients assess the information provided by GenAI chatbots and find tools that are tailored to health information. Providers might also stress the role clinicians play in curating these technologies, Deloitte suggested.

Of course, using clinician champions to encourage patient use of GenAI will require clinician engagement. Although clinicians are hopeful about GenAI, Deloitte said 41% of providers have worries about patient privacy, and 39% are worried about the impact the tools can have on the patient-provider relationship.

Transparency around technology compliance, plus integration of these tools into medical education, could help bolster trust in provider users, who can then discuss the technology with patients.

That level of transparency needs to extend to patients, as well, the Deloitte authors stated. Although 64% of all patients support their providers using GenAI, 80% want to know how their providers are using it. Said otherwise, their trust is contingent upon transparency.

"To try to meet consumer needs and alleviate their concerns, healthcare organizations should consider developing transparent processes and designing regulatory and patient protection programs," the report authors recommended.

"This involves providing consumers with clear information about data collection methods, usage, and safeguarding, as well as educating them about the limitations of the technology."

Community health partners key to patient trust

Healthcare organizations can rely on more than providers to communicate about GenAI. GenAI could also be a potential use case for community health partnerships.

"These entities already have the trust of consumers and act as reliable sources of health care information across various demographics," the authors said. "By aligning their messaging with these organizations, health care companies can effectively enhance consumer understanding and acceptance of GenAI on a wider scale."

Providers and community health partners could also be effective in addressing other patient barriers to GenAI. In addition to low patient trust, issues like not knowing how to use GenAI (29%), not knowing GenAI could help with health-related tasks (24%), and not knowing one could access the tools (22%) stand in the way of GenAI's wider acceptance.

"The path to success involves not only technological progress, but also the capacity of health care organizations to align this technology with the values, expectations, and trust of the consumers they cater to," the survey authors concluded. "With that commitment, GenAI could be more than a transformative tool, it could become a trusted ally in the pursuit of better health outcomes and more affordable health care."

Sara Heath has been covering news related to patient engagement and health equity since 2015.

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