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In a survey conducted online by YouGov for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 12 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in November 2016, respondents in the UK were the least receptive to having robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) play a role in their healthcare.
The research found just 39% of those polled in the UK would be willing to engage with AI or robotic technologies for healthcare, compared with a 12-country average of 55% favorability, and well below the 94% rate seen among respondents from Nigeria.
The UK wasn’t atypical for Europe. In Germany, just 41% of respondents were receptive to the AI/robotic healthcare concept, and the other European countries surveyed (Belgium, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden) were all at or below average for favorability, too.
As PwC’s report about the results noted, respondents from “developed economies with entrenched healthcare systems characterized by a high per capita health spend and a long legacy of universal healthcare coverage delivering good overall value were less willing to rely on AI.”
Attitudes weren’t universally negative among UK participants in the PwC study, however. Men were notably more willing than women to engage with AI and robots for their healthcare, with 47% of males open to the idea, compared with 32% of female respondents. Younger respondents were also more receptive (55%) than older respondents (33%).
“While taken at face value it appears UK patients are most skeptical about the use of AI and robotics in healthcare, closer examination reveals a significant potential market,” said Brian Pomering, PwC’s healthcare partner.
“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,” Pomering noted. “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.”
Financial, staffing and capacity issues for NHS England—the largest of the UK’s National Health Service branches—may trump UK consumers’ concerns over entrusting their healthcare to nonhuman providers. PwC’s “Economic Outlook” study, published in March 2017, predicts that 17% of healthcare and social work jobs in the UK will impacted by AI by the early 2030s, so technology naysayers may find themselves with increasingly little choice in the matter.
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