A new PwC report has found that 55% of people in 12 countries across EMEA would be willing to answer health questions, undergo tests, receive a diagnosis and treatment recommendations via advanced computer technology, or robots and artificial intelligence (AI).
PwC’s What doctor? Why AI and robotics will define New Health report found that around 36% of the 11,000 survey respondents would be willing to use an AI-enabled or robotic health procedure or service if it gave them quicker or easier access to healthcare services. Similarly, 33% said the speed and accuracy of diagnoses would be primary motivators for them to use the new technologies.
Generally, respondents in emerging markets where healthcare systems are still being shaped and formed were more willing to engage with a non-human healthcare provider than people in countries with well-established healthcare systems, such as the UK and Western/North Europe.
For example, although the survey found that up to 73% of people would be happy for a robot to perform a minor surgical procedure, respondents in Nigeria, Turkey and South Africa were the most willing to undergo minor surgery performed by robots (73%, 66% and 62% respectively). However, those in the UK were the least willing (36%). In addition, 69% of patients in Nigeria, 40% in the Netherlands and 27% in the UK would undergo major surgery – such as joint replacements or heart surgery – performed by a robot.
However, people from all markets shared the same two major concerns about AI-enabled or robotic healthcare. Around 47% said they did not fully trust robots to make decisions, while 41% cited a lack of human touch as the biggest disadvantage.
“Whether we like it or not, AI and robotics are the future of healthcare,” said Tim Wilson, leader of Middle East Health Industries at PwC. “Access to quality, affordable healthcare, and good health for everyone are the ultimate goals. The economic and social advantages to be gained from integrating AI and robotics seamlessly into our existing healthcare systems, and then creating new models of healthcare based on these technologies, are enormous.”
PwC’s report also highlighted several recommendations to help governments and healthcare providers drive the adoption of advanced computing technologies.
Healthcare professionals need to understand how AI and robotics can be used beneficially in medical systems, while the private sector companies need to develop solutions that solve the big issues of demand and resource that every health system faces. Meanwhile, decision makers at healthcare institutions must develop an evidence base, measure the success and the effectiveness of the new technology, and prioritise what consumers want and need.
Governments need to create a mandatory regulatory framework with quality standards that are applicable to the entire healthcare sector, as well as the appropriate incentives for adopting new approaches.
“It’s clear that people are becoming more and more willing to embrace new technologies such as AI and robotics for their healthcare needs,” said Dean Arnold, leader for health industries in EMEA at PwC. “But governments, businesses and the healthcare profession as a whole need to start thinking very differently about how we provide healthcare to our citizens. We need to think very carefully about our implementation strategy for different parts of the world. There will be challenges for all of us.”