Driving trust and acceptance of AI in Healthcare

The pharmaceutical, life sciences and healthcare industry represents an enormous institutional body, holding data which – through machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) – can enable faster, more efficient development of new drugs, or disease detection years before we even begin to show symptoms.

And so, the health tech industry is skyrocketing; it’s predicted to be worth $280bn within two years. And while the benefits of AI within healthcare are clear, the industry faces several challenges which we, as communication professionals, can help address in order for it to reach its potential.

Firstly, is the challenge of introducing new technologies like AI to a sector which has been traditionally conservative and in some cases – still paper based. Evidence is needed to demonstrate the current, and potential impact of AI in order to drive acceptance and trust for both the technology users and the patients themselves

Secondly, across all industries, there has been scepticism around whether AI and ML is as impactful as claims state – and in some cases – whether we are even seeing true AI at all. Again, clear evidence is needed to further build trust.

Thirdly – and this relates specifically to communications– the entry of new technologies is also increasing the complexity of the stories we are trying to tell.

These were challenges emphasised by Health Secretary Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP at CogX this week – the festival of AI and Emerging Technology. As explained in his keynote on Wednesday: “We have to show people why and how [AI works] – using emotional intelligence to explain artificial intelligence – to reassure them of the importance and the value of the technology we are developing.’

Communications has a huge role to play here.

Firstly, to achieve trust, to increase acceptance – it’s critical that we show, rather than tell, how technologies such as AI can deliver benefits across the healthcare industry and directly to patients themselves. Whether that’s a pharma organisation being able to develop a drug more quickly and efficiently, through to a patient who has experienced the benefit of a virtual trial or personalised medicine, customer / end-user examples are key to compelling, credible storytelling.

Secondly, our stories must go beyond product, if they are to make a true impact, and to help drive acceptance and belief in these kind of technologies in an industry which touches every one of our lives at one point or another.

We must be able to translate deeply technical content into something which is accessible for all audiences.Focusing on wider industry issues and thought leadership, driven from spokespeople who can step away from the deep technicalities, is key to connecting deep technologies to our day to day lives. We need data driven, human impact stories which demonstrate how new technologies can directly change patient outcomes.

To do this, communications need to work with a journalistic eye and talk to different teams across the business to unearth nuggets – ranging from data scientists and engineers, through to clinicians and customer success managers – to interrogate the how, the why, the what AI means for people and for our health.

Thirdly, there is an education / awareness / trust building piece of using these new technologies within the health sector to truly drive the industry forward. Competition in the sector also means that those who succeed will have to put effort both into being truly distinctive in their communications.

It’s a hugely exciting time for anyone working in communications in healthcare at the moment and I’d love to hear about some of the challenges, and successes, other people within the industry have been facing.

Written by Kate Smith, Practice Director, Applied Innovation

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