AI Tech Could Help Patients Open up about Health Conditions

Analysis from the University of Westminster has found that artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots could be used within healthcare to help people open up about sensitive health conditions compared to discussing them directly with a healthcare professional.

The research, which included collaboration from University College London, focused on how perceived stigma and severity of health conditions were linked to the acceptability of health information from various sources.

The study found that with certain highly-stigmatised health conditions such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), disclosing information to an AI chatbot was preferred as opposed to speaking directly with a general practitioner (GP). Conversely, it was found that with more serious conditions, such as cancer, patients preferred speaking directly with a GP for advice and guidance.

The research revealed that although predominantly healthcare professionals were found to be the most preferred source of health advice, chatbots were found to help patients speak up about conditions they felt were uncomfortable discussing with their GP. The team acknowledged that AI technology did have various limitations based on the need for input directly from patients, however, further research could lead to the development of sets of health topics most suitable for chatbot-led interactions.

Dr Tom Nadarzynski, the lead author of the study at the University of Westminster, said, “Many AI developers need to assess whether their AI-based healthcare tools, such as symptom checkers or risk calculators are acceptable interventions.

“Our research finds that patients value the opinion of healthcare professionals, therefore the implementation of AI in healthcare may not be suitable in all cases especially for serious illnesses.”


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Carrie Plummer - Editor & Content Manager


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