Women are turning to artificial intelligence to check their symptoms. Here’s why they are becoming AI tech savvy when it comes to their health
Women in the UK are turning to AI (artificial intelligence) symptom checkers to manage their health — but they still want real-life doctors to be involved as well, a new survey has revealed today.
A piece of 1,500 UK women aged 25-55 commissioned by Healthily (which is an AI healthcare platform with a class 1 medical device symptom checker that covers over 700 conditions) has uncovered a keen appetite for using online medical symptom checkers, with 41 per cent of the women surveyed saying they would turn to them to find out about any health concerns.
one in four adults are unable to get a GP appointment when they need one
Sixty-five per cent of those who already use symptom checkers said it was because they wanted to avoid waiting times with their GP and a report earlier this year in The Times newspaper mentioned that one in four adults are unable to get a GP appointment when they need one.
In light of the ChatGPT storm, in a drive to understand attitudes towards AI smart symptom checkers in relation to self-care, a survey was commissioned by Healthily, the AI health platform. A further 1,500 US women were also surveyed. The survey was conducted using the consumer research platform Attest (askattest.com).
ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI, which launched in November 2022.
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AI needs a human face
But the role of doctors was still very much valued, with 8 in 10 women in the survey saying they agreed or strongly agreed that AI symptom checkers work best when supported by real-life doctors.
‘With NHS waiting times increasing and only 10 minutes allocated to patients, we think we can help reduce the burden on the NHS,’ says Professor Maureen Baker CBE, Healthily Chief Medical Officer and former chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP).
agreed that AI symptom checkers work best when supported by real-life doctors
‘Women want to use an AI symptom checker, but our survey shows they also want it backed by the expertise of real-life doctors for added reassurance, which is exactly what the Healthily Smart Symptom Checker offers – the best of both worlds’.
As well as creating medically verified content, Healthily has spent seven years developing the Smart Symptom Checker (SSC), and has invested $40m in best-in-class AI using data inputted into the software by Healthily doctors.
Checking in for a range of conditions
Women say they are using symptom checkers to help them navigate all sorts of medical issues, from common cold symptoms to bowel health changes and how to check their breasts for breast cancer.
The top 7 health conditions women said they were using symptoms checkers for were:
- sleep (51%)
- skin problems (51%)
- weight management (47%)
- period problems (46%)
- headaches (46%)
- allergies (44%)
- respiratory symptoms (40%)
Women were more cautious about using a symptom checker to get information about other more ‘intimate’ conditions, such as changes to their vaginal (22%) and breast (21%) health.
Menopause symptoms are also a big area that women turn to as we know it impacts all areas of sleep vaginal health and weight. Check out the Healthitsa Menopause Pack for information on menopause and symptoms.
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It seems UK women are becoming ‘tech literate’, and as part of their digital repertoire they’re using technology to help them navigate the healthcare system more efficiently.
Half the women stated they use a symptom checker to help them fact-find and gather the information they need before they visit the doctor or pharmacist.
The tide is turning in favour of AI and self-care
‘Health technology is progressing at a speed, and we’ve seen that over the past few months with all the hype around ChatGPT,’ says Professor Baker.
‘Only 5 years ago, AI still had a sci-fi-type image, and we would have probably found a lot more resistance to – and scepticism about – the tech we’re using now’.
The survey findings suggest that there’s a shift in trust and women’s attitudes towards using AI to manage their health. The evidence is that as health tech evolves, it’s helping drive women to take control of their health needs.
This has been accelerated by big societal changes, and 37 per cent of the women surveyed said they’re more likely to turn to their mobile device for quick health solutions since COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis.
as health tech evolves, it’s helping drive women to take control of their health needs
‘We use our mobile to plan every other aspect of our life,’ says Professor Maureen Baker.
‘If you can find a trusted and reliable source of health information you can use via a symptom checker – why wouldn’t you give it a try?
‘And if that source could help you work out what conditions might be most likely, and if you could save money by using self-care or a pharmacy visit to deal with your issue, that could help even more’.
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Taking back control
As well as helping women navigate the NHS, 60 per cent of women surveyed said that they would use a symptom checker to help them safely self-care from home, and 63 per cent said they would be more confident making decisions about how to safely self-care at home if they had support from a symptom checker (for those already using a symptom checker, this rose to 70 per cent).
Another 48 per cent said they would be motivated to self-care to manage their health and symptoms to feel more in control of their health.
As well as being able to trust artificial intelligence, women want to feel confident that it is accurate – 39 pe said that accuracy would be a deciding factor to persuade them to use a symptom checker. Reassuringly, the recent updates to the SSC have taken another step forward to improve its accuracy.
To find out more about Healthily and its smart symptom checker, visit www.livehealthily.com
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