RoboDoc: Which health services would Brits be willing to receive from an AI?

Christien PhebyContent Manager
April 22, 2021, 8:22 AM UTC

New YouGov data shows that two in five would be happy to have robots fill prescriptions, while less than one in ten would seek mental health treatment via a chatbot 

Robots are taking an increasingly prominent role in a number of important fields: thanks to advances in technology, they’re driving carsmanufacturing products, and even conducting police work (albeit not quite to the same standard as Alex Murphy).  

Medicine has been no exception. Robots and AI systems are already filling prescriptions, providing counselling, and performing surgery. But how comfortable are Brits with the idea of receiving healthcare treatment from a machine?  

New YouGov data shows that, while a third of the public would be unwilling to receive any kind of medical service from a robot or AI (34%), two in five say they would be willing to have a machine fill and dispense their prescriptions (40%). Almost the same proportion (37%) say they would be willing to undergo robo-assisted surgery – which involves a surgeon using robotic instruments to remotely perform procedures instead of regular human hands.  

A quarter of the public say they would be willing to have a robot or AI diagnose an illness for them based on an X-Ray or scan (26%), and nearly as many (23%) say they would be comfortable letting technology perform basic GP services such as treating common conditions and providing general medical advice. The same proportion go as far as to say they would be happy receiving urgent or intensive care services from robots or AI (23%).  

Among the listed services, Britons are least likely to be willing to receive mental health services such as counselling through an AI: just 9% of the public would be comfortable undergoing therapy through a chatbot. While apps and digital services have emerged as a possible way to help people cope with mental health issues, the concept appears some way off mainstream acceptance.  

Methodology

The data is based on the interviews of 2,025 adults aged 18 and over in Great Britain. All interviews were conducted online in March 2021. Data from this market uses a nationally representative sample.

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