Patients' voice

Healthcare is changing.

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Shaping the future of healthcare

Healthcare is changing - and technology is playing a major role in that change. The ever growing population and a longer life expectancy will put more and more pressure on the healthcare system in the UK. There is a clear need to find smarter and more efficient ways of treating these increasing numbers, to the highest standards.

Patients hold the key to understanding what changes need to be made today, and in the future, to help the healthcare industry prosper and respond effectively to patient needs. Our latest patients’ voice survey looks at how patients are currently interacting with healthcare providers and the opportunities available for them to embrace new technologies such as artificial intelligence to improve speed, effectiveness and response.

Although some patients are more sceptical than others, the fact that 4 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 in the UK. Providers should look to the future - the paths of technological development and patient willingness are coming together.

We surveyed over 2000 people from across the UK to understand their attitudes and feelings towards the use of technology in the healthcare sector. The questions focused on a number of areas such as wearable technology, data and the use of technology throughout the consultation and treatment process. Explore the personas below to find out how the different age groups responded. 

Jess, 21

London - Student

Wearable technology

“I’m quite health conscious and lead an active lifestyle so I find that technology helps me to track my progress. I’ve used apps before to monitor what I’m eating and I always track my bike rides on Strava, I love that app.”

Consultation

“When it comes to healthcare, I think more could be done with technology. If a robot that could listen to problems, diagnose conditions and recommend the right treatment more efficiently than a doctor, then I’m all ears. I would be happy to engage with AI and I’d love to have customised advice for fitness and health based on my data, even better if I can access this from my phone!”

Treatment

“In terms of AI and robotics being used for treatment, I’m open to the idea, especially if the technology could speed up the process and make it safer. I’m just not convinced that robots are advanced enough yet, they’re also impersonal and people need the human touch when it comes to their healthcare.”

Data

I’d definitely consider allowing my data to be shared between healthcare providers if it meant that I would be offered better treatment and services, the only concern I have with that is privacy and security - there have been so many hacks in the news recently it’s insane! 

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Nisha, 30

Birmingham - Sales Advisor

Wearable technology

“I don’t go anywhere without my fitbit. We have a weekly competition going at work to see who can do the most steps so I’m always trying to fit some in where I can. I think that the information is great at helping me make conscious decisions about my lifestyle.”

Consultation

“I’d be more than happy to speak with my doctor over email, it’s the most convenient for me as I work all week and have my emails to hand. I don’t mind using an online chat service or speaking on the phone however sometimes these can be quite clunky. I’ve heard of AI and robotics being used at companies for customer service so I’d be willing to give it a go - new technologies like that don’t phase me.”

Treatment

“I think it would be great if technology could provide customised advice for fitness and health. I also don’t mind the idea of using AI for minor surgery if the benefits were substantial. It’s a little more scary to think that AI could be used for major surgery, I would want to understand the risks involved. If something unexpected was found, I wouldn’t trust a robot to make the correct decisions.”

Data

“I’d be happy to share my data with healthcare providers on the basis that this is kept securely and is only accessed by parties that need to know the information in order to provide a better service to me as a customer.”

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Eric, 39

Cardiff - Director

Wearable technology

“I currently use apps such as MyFitnessPal, Strava and Fitbit to monitor my health and wellbeing. I feel like these help to keep me on top of my fitness goals and hold me to account with what I’m eating although, admittedly I don’t update it as often as I should.”

Consultation

“My health is really important to me, especially as I’m getting older, but I don’t like to take time off work if I can avoid it. I’d rather talk to the doctor on my mobile or via live online chat if it’s nothing too serious and I would also consider using an intelligent healthcare assistant via my smartphone. But I’m not 100% I would trust this, my life feels much safer in the hands of a doctor.”

Treatment

“I think I’d be happy for a robot to check my heart's rhythm and make recommendations based on the results or to perform minor surgery but I’m not convinced about major surgery, I would need more information before making a decision. The only challenge I have with accepting robots to replace doctors is if something unexpected happened, would it know how to respond?”

Data

“I would share my health records with different healthcare organisations if it meant that anyone treating me would have a complete view of my health. I think this is a no brainer and would allow providers to make better informed decisions on diagnosis and treatments.”

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Josh, 48

Leeds - Self-employed

Wearable technology

“I love my smartwatch - I think it's a great invention! I can track my health and fitness on it whilst also receiving texts, emails and calls which is so useful. I wouldn’t say all of my friends use them but I just love gadgets.”

Consultation

“I find the concept of talking to a robot about my health strange. I know there are apps and websites where you can have online consultations but I’ve not tried them. I’ve used services online to order repeat prescriptions and I find this really convenient for my wife and I but that’s along way from robots and AI diagnosing a condition and recommending treatment, I just don't think you can beat going to see your local GP.”

Treatment

“When it comes to treatment, I don’t think I’m comfortable with the idea of robots and AI being used to perform surgery. In my opinion, only a doctor or healthcare professional can make the right decisions for treatments, they are able to use their intuition and experience. Robots are impersonal and people need that "human touch" when it comes to healthcare.”

Data

“I’m wary of sharing my data because of everything that’s been happening in the news recently, I’m not sure that I’d trust it to be secure without at least some risk.My personal health records are something I see to be private and of great value.”

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Heather, 62

Northern Ireland - Retired Teacher

Wearable technology

“If my doctor suggested an intelligent healthcare assistant, I may give it a try if it was free and easy to use but most of the time I don’t think I’d need one. I know how to keep fit and healthy and I’ve discussed this with my doctor.”

Consultation

“I like to stick to what I know, I much prefer to ring up my surgery and book an appointment to go in and see my GP. I think it would be very difficult for the doctor to diagnose over the phone. A few of my friends have used online GP services for consultations but this isn’t something I’d use. I think with their training and years of experience a doctor will always be far superior to a machine.”

Treatment

“If I needed treatment, I may let a robot or computer do some simple tests on me but I think a doctor has far more ability, I can’t imagine a robot having the finesse to find a vein but who knows what’s possible these days. If a doctor said I needed an operation by a machine, I think I’d say no and wait for a surgeon. The big thing for me is having that caring human contact, someone who understands my needs, especially if it’s quite a serious illness."

Data

“I think it could be really useful to have my health data shared with others, especially as I get older and may use more services that aren't centralised. The only concern I’d have is how secure is it? From everything I’ve seen on the news that is definitely something I’d be worried about”

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Key findings

AI

Patients noted that the top 3 advantages of using AI in health to be:

  • Healthcare would be quicker and easier to access
  • AI would be able to access and analyse more information than a human and therefore diagnosis would be much faster and accurate.
  • And with the above in mind, that better treatment recommendations would be made.

However despite the AI hype, there's still work to be done in healthcare to build trust among UK patients in this type of technology. 1 in 4 people can't see the benefits of using AI in healthcare at all and almost a third, state that they don’t understand this kind of technology enough to know if it can benefit or be dangerous in healthcare. There is more work to be done to educate patients on the new technologies that are surfacing to enable the right understanding of the opportunities AI presents.

Data

50% of all respondents would be likely to consider using a service that allowed their health records to be shared with different healthcare organisations.

We asked respondents if they would be willing to share their health records with different healthcare organisations such as hospitals, private providers or specialist clinics if there was a free, independent online service so that anyone treating you would have a complete view of your of your health. Interestingly there was little difference of opinion amongst the age groups, however it still leaves 50% who aren’t comfortable sharing their health records. In a separate question, 65% of respondents said they would be willing to support ongoing medical research by granting access to their anonymised records.

Wellbeing

Nearly half (46%) of all respondents claim not to use technology to monitor their wellbeing. A further 19% do not monitor their health and wellbeing at all even without technology.

Although healthcare technology such as fitness apps and tracking devices are popular amongst the younger age brackets, some respondents claim not to use technology to monitor their wellbeing, if indeed they monitor their wellbeing at all. Of those that do use technology to monitor their wellbeing, it’s things such as Apple Smartwatch and Fitbit that are leading the way which correlates with some of the data we found in the last patients voice survey around wearable technology.

Treatment

Nearly a third (30%) of patients in the UK would be willing to have major invasive surgery performed by AI - In particular nearly half of young people (18-24) would be willing (43%)

More and more advanced computer technology such as AI and robotics is being adopted by healthcare professionals to perform surgery on patients. Of the respondents, nearly a third said they would be willing to have major invasive surgery such as a knee or hip replacement, heart surgery or removal of a tumour performed by AI. There could be huge benefits to patients and doctors if we could get to a place where AI and robotics could be trusted to perform procedures in a safe and efficient way - this could be the future of how our healthcare system operates.

Conclusion

Although patients see some clear advantages for the introduction of AI and tech to the healthcare industry, their main concern is that AI lacks the 'human touch', and the human ability to look beyond data, and include context when making treatment choices - this demonstrates the importance UK patients place upon their relationship with medical professionals.

If just a proportion of the UK population start to use more services delivered through technology it could begin to deliver savings by freeing up both staff and resources. This could, in turn, make a serious contribution to addressing the huge financial challenges facing the health system in the UK.

Contact us

Quentin Cole

Leader of Industry for Government and Health Industries, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 7770 303 846

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