WebMD to ChatGPT: The new era of digital diagnosis

US consumer perceptions of AI in healthcare

73% of US adults believe they understand their personal health better than their doctor

More Americans trust social media and healthcare websites to give them health advice over a medical professional, according to a new survey. The poll of 2,000 US adults revealed many turn to the web for accurate information on health before their physician, with people consulting healthcare websites (53%) and social media (46%) more than their personal doctor (44%).

Nearly three-quarters (73%) believe they better understand their personal health than their doctor does. Comparatively, 44% of Brits and 27% of Australians wouldn’t trust AI to handle health-related tasks. Meanwhile, only 6% of Americans shared the same anti-AI sentiments.

Further showcasing their point, 67% of Americans said they’ve looked up their symptoms on an internet search engine like Google or WebMD. Over half of the respondents (52%) stated they have given a list of their symptoms to a large language model (LLM) like ChatGPT, looking for a diagnosis. Of them, 81% have been given a diagnosis from the LLM, and when asked for their diagnosis after consulting a doctor, 84% said the diagnosis was accurate. 

Respondents said they would consult the internet or ChatGPT instead of their doctor because they don’t understand their healthcare insurance or what it covers (57%), they’re embarrassed by what they’re experiencing (51%), or because they want a second opinion (45%). 

"The PX—or patient experience—isn't just about the relationship between patients and providers,” said Lija Hogan, principal of enterprise research strategy at UserTesting. “Healthcare journeys include digital touchpoints that extend beyond scheduling appointments or remote visits. 

The survey also found people would trust AI to recommend treatment plans to them (53%), schedule doctor appointments (52%), and coordinate with pharmacies to fill prescriptions (47%).

“Americans are using AI as a means to help them navigate a complex experience with more information that is understandable and relevant to them—and that they feel is trustworthy," remarks Hogan.

Respondents would also trust AI with their sleeping patterns (53%), heart rate information (51%), blood pressure (42%), and fertility information (40%).

Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) would trust AI to diagnose them with medical conditions such as certain chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes (48%), COVID-19 (42%), and colds and flu (40%). 

94% of people own a personal smart device that can track health, and 86% use smart devices to opt in for health tracking. Six in 10 (62%) said health tracking has influenced their behaviors.

Of course, much of people's trust in technology doesn’t stop with AI. Many would also trust major tech companies with their personal health data, including:

  • Google (54%)
  • Apple (47%)
  • Fitbit (34%)
  • Amazon (31%)
  • Meta (25%)

Overall, 78% stated they’re “confident” that AI and tech companies would protect their health information.

"Doctors and patients need to figure out together how AI can play the best role in healthcare journey,” continued Hogan. “This means that we have to figure out the right guardrails to ensure people are getting high-quality advice in the right contexts and how to connect patients to providers. 

“The growing prevalence of healthcare deserts or even just ordinary lack of access in America means that AI will be incorporated into the healthcare journey to provide care at the scale that we need as the country ages.

Hear what respondents have to say. 

Top 10 tasks people in the US would trust with AI

  • Recommending treatment plans - 53%
  • Scheduling doctor appointments - 52%
  • Coordinating with pharmacies (refilling prescriptions) - 47%
  • Recommending medications - 45%
  • Choosing my health insurance plan - 42%
  • Diagnosing me with a medical condition - 23%
  • Finding me a new doctor - 19%
  • Creating/recommending a fitness/exercise plan - 18%
  • Mental health treatments (therapy, meditation, etc.) - 17%
  • Choosing my diet - 17%

Infographic summary

WebMD to ChatGPT: The new era of digital diagnosis

Survey methodology

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by UserTesting between October 13 and October 17, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).