Virtual second opinions are popular but wariness persists on AI diagnosis tools

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Despite the growing demand for virtual healthcare solutions, patients still harbor apprehensions over the use of AI in medical diagnosis, according to a survey from the Cleveland Clinic.

The survey found the availability of virtual second opinion (VSO) services made it far more likely for respondents to follow through with seeking a second opinion, with 89% noting they would be very or somewhat interested in obtaining a VSO if faced with an important medical decision.

Still, nearly four in ten respondents expressed reservations about seeking a second opinion if AI tools were involved in the diagnostic process, favoring traditional provider-driven approaches.

On the other hand, nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents said the use of AI to diagnose conditions would make them more likely to seek out a VSO.

The survey of 400 patient respondents targeted individuals who have faced significant health challenges and was conducted by Acumen Marketing Research.

While 71% of respondents said they have contemplated seeking a second opinion, only half have followed through, with perceived cost, lack of familiarity with specialists and constraints on time cited as common barriers to obtaining additional medical advice.

Key drivers of interest in VSO services included the elimination of travel expenses and time, offering a more cost-effective and convenient alternative for patients seeking specialized care.

More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents said they would seek out VSO services if it were a benefit provided by an employer.

Frank McGillin, CEO of The Clinic at Cleveland Clinic, explained in an email interview that virtual second opinions must ensure compliance with healthcare data protection regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

“It’s critical the platform integrates with existing EHR systems and other healthcare IT infrastructure to facilitate the retrieval of existing health records for review,” he said. “The VSO must be designed with a user-friendly interface to enhance the experience for both healthcare providers and patients.”

In addition, performance must be optimized to provide timely responses and reduce latency during virtual consultations.

He added that ultimately, overall costs are key, with 52% of survey respondents noting the elimination of travel time and other expenses as a top driver of their interest in a virtual second opinion.

“Providers must be open about the limitations and uncertainties of AI, emphasizing that it complements, rather than replaces, human expertise,” McGillin said. “Ultimately, we expect AI tools to enhance the speed and accuracy of diagnostics, leading to more effective and personalized treatment plans.”

These AI-powered capabilities could result in efficiency improvements, reduced wait times and enhanced overall healthcare experience for patients.

THE LARGER TREND

Momentum behind AI-powered healthcare solutions continues to build as providers and practitioners leverage the technology to improve care and streamline workloads, as the industry grapples with the patient safety implications of a new and largely untested technology.

From AI-powered cancer screening systems to augmented reality therapy platforms, AI and generative AI applications are making an impact on healthcare on a global scale. 

According to a recent Kodiak Solutions report, AI ranks among the top five management risks for providers in 2024, pointing to the necessity of addressing workforce challenges in skill acquisition and training to fully realize the technology’s benefits.



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