Do Patients Want AI in the Operating Room?
Short answer: Yes!
In fact, not only do patients place a high importance on choosing where to get surgery based on their innovative nature and adoption of technology, but half of patients believe they will receive better care if that is the case.
Much of the literature about implementing AI technology in the OR views the issue from the perspective of the physician or healthcare organization. And while patient outcomes are a key force driving this discussion, patient opinions are rarely part of the conversation. So how do patients feel about the use of AI technology during their own surgical procedures? The answer may surprise you.
Surgery Is Already A Difficult Decision For Patients
Unsurprisingly, patients do not take the decision to undergo surgery lightly. Furthermore, most have understandable concerns about surgical risks and complications. In our 2023 survey of 200 post-operative patients, 82% of patients reported they were nervous to undergo surgery. Specifically, 65% worried about dying on the table and 66% were concerned their surgery may create more health problems.
In fact, our data show that patient preoperative anxiety is not misplaced. While 93% of those surveyed were pleased with their surgical outcomes, 26% of this group experienced post-surgical issues that required further intervention to correct.
Choosing Surgeons and Hospitals
What factors go into a patient’s decision about where to have surgery and whom to trust with their care? A vast majority of patients (87%) trusted their surgeon prior to undergoing their procedures. This trust largely carried through to the post-operative phase, even for those who experienced complications they believed could have been prevented. Interestingly, 21% of patients felt their surgeon did not clearly explain what to expect, yet clearly still trusted them.
In terms of surgical location, access to the most advanced technologies was the most important factor patients considered when deciding where to undergo surgery. This outranked consideration of the hospital where a physician practiced and where the surgeon was trained. Patients see the value in innovative care and are willing to forgo institutional loyalty to access advanced technologies.
Intraoperative Video Recording and AI
According to our results, a majority of patients (55%) wished their surgical procedure had been recorded and placed high value on the potential uses of recorded surgical data. Of the patients surveyed, 60% would want to watch the recording of their surgical procedure if it were available. Additionally, 38% wish they knew more about what happened in the OR during their procedure and 58% of those who experienced complications (15% of total respondents) felt their complications were avoidable, which may explain their interest in viewing their own procedure.
Notably, patients are not simply interested in the potential for recorded surgical video to demonstrate what took place during their own procedure — they see the value in using recorded surgical data for quality improvement. In this regard, 76% of respondents believed that surgical video should be captured and used to better understand surgery.
When asked about the use of AI tools in the operating room, 50% of those surveyed felt they would receive better care if advanced technology like AI was used in the operating room. This means that when patients are selecting a hospital for their surgical procedure, many see the use of AI as exactly the type of high-value advanced technology that would warrant choosing one hospital over another. Rather than being wary of these tools, patients see the potential for them to support surgical decision making.
Surgical Expectations and Outcomes
A majority of respondents believed that surgeons should be measured on complication and readmission rates, as well as length of stay. Of note, 72% of patients surveyed experienced a length of stay that was expected or less than expected.
When asked how their surgical experience could have been improved, patients cited the following:
- Knowing my surgeon is using the most advanced technology (47%)
- Knowing my surgeon is being assessed based on their postoperative outcomes rather than cost (46%)
- Having more visibility into what happened while I was asleep in the operating room (41%)
- Being at a hospital known for having the most advanced technology (32%)
Insights for Future Decision Making
Patients are consumers of healthcare and have high expectations for the level of surgical care they receive. Rather than being viewed as risky, technological innovations in surgical care, such as the use of AI tools, are viewed by the general public as not only desirable, but a feature worth seeking out when deciding where to obtain care.
As physicians and hospital administrators make decisions about how and when to integrate AI tools into their ORs, it is essential to keep this patient perspective in mind. Just as those in the healthcare sector see the potential for AI to improve patient care, so do patients, whose interest in advanced surgical technologies is likely to grow as these tools become more widely available.