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, 21 (4), e12887

Physicians' Perceptions of Chatbots in Health Care: Cross-Sectional Web-Based Survey


Physicians' Perceptions of Chatbots in Health Care: Cross-Sectional Web-Based Survey

Adam Palanica et al. J Med Internet Res.


Background: Many potential benefits for the uses of chatbots within the context of health care have been theorized, such as improved patient education and treatment compliance. However, little is known about the perspectives of practicing medical physicians on the use of chatbots in health care, even though these individuals are the traditional benchmark of proper patient care.

Objective: This study aimed to investigate the perceptions of physicians regarding the use of health care chatbots, including their benefits, challenges, and risks to patients.

Methods: A total of 100 practicing physicians across the United States completed a Web-based, self-report survey to examine their opinions of chatbot technology in health care. Descriptive statistics and frequencies were used to examine the characteristics of participants.

Results: A wide variety of positive and negative perspectives were reported on the use of health care chatbots, including the importance to patients for managing their own health and the benefits on physical, psychological, and behavioral health outcomes. More consistent agreement occurred with regard to administrative benefits associated with chatbots; many physicians believed that chatbots would be most beneficial for scheduling doctor appointments (78%, 78/100), locating health clinics (76%, 76/100), or providing medication information (71%, 71/100). Conversely, many physicians believed that chatbots cannot effectively care for all of the patients' needs (76%, 76/100), cannot display human emotion (72%, 72/100), and cannot provide detailed diagnosis and treatment because of not knowing all of the personal factors associated with the patient (71%, 71/100). Many physicians also stated that health care chatbots could be a risk to patients if they self-diagnose too often (714%, 74/100) and do not accurately understand the diagnoses (74%, 74/100).

Conclusions: Physicians believed in both costs and benefits associated with chatbots, depending on the logistics and specific roles of the technology. Chatbots may have a beneficial role to play in health care to support, motivate, and coach patients as well as for streamlining organizational tasks; in essence, chatbots could become a surrogate for nonmedical caregivers. However, concerns remain on the inability of chatbots to comprehend the emotional state of humans as well as in areas where expert medical knowledge and intelligence is required.

Keywords: health care; health surveys; mobile health; physician satisfaction; telemedicine.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of Interest: None declared.

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