Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly developing in the healthcare space, with promises to improve patient outcomes, deliver stronger results faster, and create better value. AI innovation has been met with applause but also with hesitation; the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer found more than 50 percent of consumers are concerned that technological innovations are happening too quickly. Coupled with the healthcare sector’s decline in trust in 2018, it is imperative that health companies both using and considering this ever-evolving technology clearly understand its benefits as well as possible limitations and vulnerabilities to both business and patients.  

As discussed in a recent webinar by STAT, communications marketers can help manage the overwhelming hype around AI by separating the genuine opportunity from the noise. Here are the essentials for maintaining trust around AI with audiences across the healthcare industry: 

Patients: Despite concerns about the pace of change, the Edelman Trust Barometer found that people feel generally positive about the benefits health technology can provide. To capitalize on this sentiment, physicians and health communicators alike can help explain how, exactly, AI improves patients’ lives. For example, AI can help to reduce human error, process medical data more quickly and predict outcomes sooner, meaning less time in doctors’ offices for patients, clearer treatment instructions and faster diagnoses. It is important to show that AI is being used to improve the patient experience in the doctor’s office, not automate it.  

Patients may also have concerns about AI and the privacy of their medical data. It’s important to explain the precautions taken to store and guard medical data and articulate that personal data will be only be shared with patient permission. As with most experiences across healthcare, patients must feel they are an active participant in decisions about how their data is used and that their needs are listened to along the way. 

Physicians: While AI may feel like it is taking healthcare in a completely new direction, many of these technologies are created to enhance techniques already in use by healthcare professionals. AI doesn’t enhance only the patient experience, but also the physician experience by completing and recording basic diagnostic tasks, leaving the physician with more time for patient interaction and treatment planning. 

For example, AI speech automation technology saves doctors valuable time through voice-activated dictation of medical notes and patient treatment plans. Predictive algorithms created by AI can also support and strengthen physicians’ decisions, providing probabilities around patient outcomes like hospital re-admittance and complicating health factors. Other areas of use include advanced data processing to expedite disease detection and prediction, as well as AI-assisted robotic surgery and image analysis, improving overall patient outcomes.  

To advance trust in AI with physicians, particularly those skeptical about this rapidly evolving technology, they must see it as complimentary to their training and expertise, a tool that connects them to the most current and accurate medical information. 

Industry Partners: There is ample opportunity for AI technology across the healthcare industry.  

For example: 

  • Hospitals are using AI to more effectively schedule and manage bed space and ER overflow. They also use blinded patient data to determine trends and signs of early onset symptoms, making for more efficient and predictive patient care.  

  • Pharma companies use AI to advance drug pipelines and accelerate R&D. This includes processing data that can identify new patient subgroups and biological profiles, which can help determine who may benefit from certain therapies, as well as match doctors more accurately with the appropriate patients based on expertise and past experience.   

  • Clinical trials can use this data to automate recruitment, making them safer and more cost-effective by analyzing historical trial data to improve trial design and see where things may have previously gone awry.  

To establish and grow trust as AI continues to advance, and the healthcare industry along with it, communications around this technology must provide clarity on how AI can benefit patients and physicians alike, while showing improvements it can bring to healthcare organizations overall. 

Jacob Voss is an immersion associate, Chicago.