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April 11, 2017updated 12 Apr 2017 4:49pm

Over a quarter would trust robots over doctors with heart surgery

Although UK patients seem to be less willing than most when it comes to AI in healthcare, a significant portion would entrust robots to perform minor and major surgery.

By Ellie Burns

A new survey has revealed that the UK are not as keen as most when it comes to AI and robots in healthcare.

When it comes to robots giving out healthcare advice, UK patients were found to be the most sceptical among EMEA countries – just 39% of UK patients say they are willing to engage with artificial intelligence/robotics for healthcare, in sharp contrast with other countries in the EMEA region,  such as Nigeria where 94% of patients are willing.

However, although sceptical, the fact that nearly four in 10 would be willing to engage with technology in their healthcare experience signals a huge opportunity to transform healthcare delivery for the benefit of patients.

READ MORE: Can IoT solutions save the ageing healthcare system?

Interestingly, men in the UK were found to be more willing than women – 47% compared to 32% –  to engage with healthcare AI and robotics. Unsurprisingly, the older generation are much more sceptical than the young – 33% compared to 55%.

“While taken at face value it appears UK patients are most sceptical about the use of AI and robotics in healthcare, closer examination reveals a significant potential market,” said Brian Pomering, PwC healthcare partner.

“The younger the demographic group, the more likely they are to see new health technologies in a positive light. Well over half of 18 to 24 year olds would be willing to engage with AI and robotics to take care of some of their health. If only a proportion start to use more services delivered through technology, that could begin to make big savings. This could, in turn, make a serious contribution to addressing the huge financial challenges facing the health system in the UK.”

The PwC report What doctor? Why AI and robotics will define New Health revealed that more than half of the 11,000 surveyed were be willing to use advanced computer technology or robots with AI that can answer health questions, perform tests, make a diagnosis and recommend treatment.robots in healthcare

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Looking inside the operating theatre of the future, respondents would be willing for a robot to perform a minor surgical procedure instead of a doctor. Respondents in Nigeria, Turkey and South Africa are the most willing to undergo minor surgery performed by robots (73%, 66% and 62% respectively), with the UK the least willing (36%).

However this changes when it comes to major surgery – but even so, the number of people willing to be operated on my a robot was significant. 69% in Nigeria, 40% in the Netherlands and 27% in the UK would entrust a robot to remove a tumour, perform heart surgery or replace a hip.

The reasons why people were willing to trust robots with their health and lives were put down to a number of key driverseasier and quicker access to healthcare services (36%) and speed and accuracy of diagnoses (33%) were found to be the primary motivators for willingness. A lack of trust in robots being able to make decisions (47%) and lack of the human touch (41%) as the primary reasons for their reluctance.

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