Northern Ireland patients would opt for AI medics to sidestep GP waiting lists

  • Northern Ireland most receptive UK region to engage with AI in healthcare
  • More than 50% patients would give up seeing a doctor or nurse in favour of a robot
  • Opportunity to deliver radical change for healthcare systems

More Northern Ireland patients than anywhere else in the UK would let a robot help deliver their  baby, administer an injection and even carry out major invasive surgery., according to a new PwC survey.  

An new PwC survey, AI and Healthcare, reveals that, over the past two years, there’s been  a sea change in local patient sentiment towards the possibility of using artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced computer technology to deliver medical solutions.  Back in 2016, a similar PwC survey found that Northern Ireland patients were the least receptive to using artificial intelligence in healthcare (33% compared to the UK average of 31%).

The latest PwC reports says that more than 1 in 6 NI patients would be willing to talk to a robot that could diagnose a condition and recommend treatment, compared to 1 in 10 in the UK as a whole.

In addition, 56% of NI patients would be willing to access advice and information from an intelligent healthcare assistant via a smartphone or similar device in preference to any  contact with health professionals, almost 10% higher than the UK average (47%). One in five said they would be ‘very willing’ to accept this.

Surprisingly, in just two years, the number of people in Northern Ireland who would be ‘very willing’ for a sick child or parent to receive medical advice from an  intelligent healthcare assistant from 1% to 16%. Over the same period, the UK average has moved from just 6% to 7%.

And 3% of NI respondents said they would be willing for an advanced computer to deliver their baby: the UK average was 0%.

The openness amongst NI patients to embrace advanced computer technologies in a wide variety of medical situations could enable a raft of transformations to improve healthcare delivery for the benefit of patients. Areas that have also undergone huge shifts in local opinion include having minor, non- or minimally-invasive surgery carried out by AI (up from 4% in 2016 to 17% in 2018), and major, invasive surgery (increased from 2% in 2016 to 16% in 2018).

The use of AI and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is also higher in Northern Ireland where more people use wearable fitness bands (17% compared to 13%) and calorie or diet-tracking apps (11% compared to 8%). The number of people using exercise apps in Northern Ireland is double that the UK average  (8% to 4%).

An indicator perhaps why patients in Northern Ireland have experienced this change can be found in the most popular answer to the question: ‘what the biggest advantage of using AI for healthcare?’ 40%  said speed and ease of access - almost double the number who opted for this answer in 2016 (21%).

Since 2016, according to figures from the Department for Health, the number of patients in Northern Ireland w more than 26 weeks for a diagnosis has increased from 9.4% (9,675) in March 2017 to 17.1% (18,598) in March 2018, and a commitment made that by March 2018 no patient should wait longer than 52 weeks for a first outpatient appointment has not been met.

Seamus Cushley, Digital Disruption lead at PwC NI commented:

“AI frequently gets a bad press but this report demonstrates that there is a fast-growing desire to see it implemented in settings which need radical attention. This 180º turnabout in Northern Ireland is remarkable but, when set against the day-to-day reality of the current healthcare system, makes perfect sense.

“AI is becoming increasingly sophisticated at doing what humans can do but more efficiently, quicker and at a lower cost. Introducing disruptive, innovative technologies that support healthcare professionals and free them to be engaged in priority patient care will benefit everyone.”

Contact us

General Enquiries
Northern Ireland, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)289 024 5454
Email

Student Recruitment
Northern Ireland, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)289 041 5393
Email

Experienced Careers
Northern Ireland, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)289 024 5454
Email

Follow us: