AI’s got a trust issue in health care

PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’ll be off for Thanksgiving this Thursday and Friday but back to our normal schedule on Monday, Nov. 27.

Consumers are more hesitant about artificial intelligence’s march into health care than they are about it making inroads in other sectors, a new survey of more than 28,000 consumers across the globe from software firm Qualtrics found.

Forty-five percent of consumers said they’d be comfortable with AI’s medical advice compared with other services, POLITICO’s Ben Leonard reports.

More than 4 in 5 respondents told Qualtrics they’d prefer a human for advice, and more than 3 in 5 said they’d prefer to talk to a person to schedule an appointment.

By contrast, 73 percent said they were good with AI helping them check an order’s status, 61 percent with AI help buying an airline ticket and 60 percent for getting tech support.

Another view: A separate Qualtrics survey of about 4,000 health care workers found that 56 percent would be OK with using AI for writing, and 41 percent said they’d use it as an assistant, lower than that of employees in other industries.

Takeaway: The results underscore the trust issues that persist with AI in health care as lawmakers and regulators look to ensure the technology is safe for consumers without stifling innovation.

This is where we explore the ideas and innovators shaping health care.

Birds are the latest metric for inequity in America. Predominantly white neighborhoods have more birds that generally live in forests, such as warblers, wrens and bluebirds, the New York Times reports. Predominantly Hispanic areas and other areas redlined in the past have more pigeons and sparrows but also crows and ravens.

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Today on our Pulse Check podcast, host Katherine Ellen Foley talks with POLITICO health care reporter David Lim about the dim prospects for passing health legislation before year’s end and what that means for 2024.

Public health groups support draft guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraging the use of a type of morning-after treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

The comment period for the draft guidance on doxyPEP closed last week, and submissions from groups including AIDS United and Planned Parenthood were overwhelmingly in favor.

DoxyPEP, which stands for doxycycline post-exposure prophylaxis, consists of doxycycline, an antibiotic, taken soon after potential exposure to an STI, such as during unprotected sex.

Why it matters: Because doxycycline is already an FDA-approved drug, doctors could already prescribe it for doxyPEP. But a CDC endorsement should increase awareness and uptake.

The guidance recommends doxyPEP specifically for men who have sex with men and transgender women who have had a bacterial STI within the past year — an NIH-funded study found that doxyPEP reduces infections among those populations — though experts say it should work for other people, too.

The CDC guidance comes as STI numbers are rising in the U.S. From 2017 to 2021, cases of the bacterial STIs chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis grew 7 percent, according to CDC data.

Several comments on the draft cited those trends as further reason to support doxyPEP.

Even so: The main concern with doxyPEP is its potential to exacerbate antimicrobial resistance, an increasing problem.

Existing evidence on consistent use of doxycycline and antimicrobial resistance is limited, though it does point toward at least some negative impact.

The CDC draft guidelines say the benefit of doxyPEP as recommended outweighs the risks.

“We support this judicious antimicrobial use under the proposed guidelines and encourage CDC to closely monitor use rates and the emergence of resistance in the treated populations, and make necessary changes to the guidelines if concerns arise,” the National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education wrote in its comment.

What’s next? The CDC must review the comments and decide whether to issue the guidance.

Thanksgiving is a time to bring together relatives for empathetic conversation and neighbors who would otherwise spend the feast alone.

Just in time for the holiday, Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) and two Nebraska Republicans, Rep. Mike Flood and Sen. Pete Ricketts, have introduced companion legislation they hope will help policymakers combat increased loneliness and the health ills that come with it.

Their “Improving Measurements for Loneliness and Isolation Act” directs HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to create a working group to recommend standards for defining, measuring and collecting data on loneliness and isolation. The results could give federal and local lawmakers a better picture of the problem and tailor solutions.

“As our nation continues to grapple with declining mental health, it’s vital that we are equipped with the right data to turn the tide on this worsening epidemic,” Tone said in a statement.

Why it matters: More Americans are lonelier than at any point in modern times, and loneliness and isolation pose a profound threat to the nation’s health and well-being, according to Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

Murthy cites a growing body of evidence in his 2023 advisory report linking loneliness to cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression and anxiety.

Bills, bills, bills: The loneliness measurement bills are narrower than legislation introduced this summer by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Tina Smith of Minnesota. Their bill lays out a strategy for advancing social connection, which includes creating a White House office and an advisory council and putting $5 million toward research.

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