A third of patients in the UK are willing to have major invasive surgery performed by AI, according to research conducted by YouGov for PwC.

The research found that young people and men are most supportive, with nearly half of 18 to 24-year-olds and 39% of men willing to go under a knife wielded by AI.

Perhaps unexpectedly it is old people who are the most sceptical. Only 24% of over 55s are open to the idea.

Looming disruption

As the benefits of AI-powered healthcare become more and more evident, it is only a matter of time before AI infuses into the healthcare system. AI promises to help to alleviate waiting times and surgery delays that currently plague operations, free up staff and resources, and cut costs.

But it is no exaggeration to say that patients value the relationship they have with medical professionals more than in any other context, preferring to have sensitive consultations and life-changing decisions made by real-life humans.

Even if AI interfaces don’t develop a believable ‘human touch’ – and there is no reason to suspect that this won’t happen sooner or later – having treatment decisions made by a cold chunk of metal and code might be a pill worth swallowing if it means your healthcare is smarter and fast-tracked.

Growing support

According to the survey, carried out online in June, patients were generally aware of the advantages of AI healthcare, including its ability to provide quicker and easier access to healthcare, faster and more accurate diagnosis, and better treatment recommendations.

PwC says the results demonstrate how healthcare is shaping up as a near-term AI growth industry, and that it signals ‘a huge opportunity to transform healthcare delivery’ in the UK.

Quentin Cole, UK Government and Health Industries leader at PwC, said the results supported the findings of research undertaken by the firm last year.

“PwC’s report on automation last year estimated that healthcare and social work would be the biggest winners from AI, where employment could increase by nearly 1 million on a net basis, equivalent to more than a fifth of existing jobs in the sector,” he said.

“With the younger demographic more open to using new technologies in their healthcare, we need to seize the opportunity to prepare for a generation that will be more willing to engage with AI.”