Australian consumers are ready to embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI) in health care, opening the way for further innovation and improved care for patients, according to a new survey by Australia’s leading not-for-profit health fund, HCF.

The study suggests that already over 80 per cent of Australians are comfortable with AI being used to diagnose common medical problems and interpret test results.

In fact almost three quarters (72 per cent) said they are willing to allow AI to be used in prescribing treatment for patients.

However, people also acknowledge some of the limitations of AI technology and identified privacy concerns over patient records and medical confidentiality (58 per cent) and the lack of human intuition (57 per cent) as issues.

Shaun Larkin, HCF managing director, said “It’s clear that Australians see the benefit of technological advancements in health, particularly where it can be used to prevent disease and improve patient care. However, it seems we are also torn between the perceived positives and the potential limitations of removing the human element. This healthy dose of scepticism is important for the sector to recognise and respond to – we need to be clear about the benefits but also to be very open about any potential risks.”

“It’s easy to get excited about technology that can help save lives and potentially revolutionise patient care. At the same time, we need to be aware of the implications of change – from the true cost of technological advancements to other ethical and personal considerations. Our health care system is innovating and it is important we do this at the right speed to address changing health needs but also to ensure consumers are comfortable,” Larkin said.

“The future is already here in many ways and there are a number of recent inventions and technological applications that will undoubtedly change the face of the health care industry in the future.”

According to Larkin, “We’ve seen this and supported it, for example through the HCF Catalyst program, an accelerator program that helps health tech businesses take their ideas and develop them into a business reality. We will continue to support innovation that benefits Australians and promote education and clear communication so consumers understand changes in the industry, now and in the future.”

HCF’s Health Barometer Survey investigated the future of medicine and health care. The authors say their study reveals that while the advancement of technology is largely seen as a positive, there is still a healthy dose of scepticism and uncertainty about how and why technology might be used in the health system.

Clear Benefits

Just under two-thirds (58 per cent) of respondents think AI is a major step in the right direction for earlier disease detection and reduced incidence of death. Improved efficiency (50 per cent), accuracy (57 per cent) and keeping long-term hospital patients comfortable at home (53 per cent) are also revealed as benefit of embracing AI technology.

Importantly, more than half (53 per cent) of Australians believe the use of AI will reduce the pressures on the current health care system and almost half (46 per cent) think the technology can assist in relieving medical staff to focus on more important tasks at hand.

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