Patient behavior and the benefits of artificial intelligence: The perils of "dangerous" literacy and illusory patient empowerment

Peter J. Schulz, Kent Nakamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objective: Artificial intelligence can provide important support of patient health. However, limits to realized benefits can arise as patients assume an active role in their health decisions. Methods: Distinguishing the concepts of health literacy and patient empowerment, we analyze conditions that bias patient use of the Internet and limit access to and impact of artificial intelligence. Results: Improving health literacy in the face of the Internet requires significant guidance. Patients must be directed toward the appropriate tools and also provided with key background knowledge enabling them to use the tools and capitalize on the artificial intelligence technology. Conclusion: Benefits of tools employing artificial intelligence to promote health cannot be realized without recognizing and addressing the patients' desires, expectations, and limitations that impact their Internet behavior. In order to benefit from artificial intelligence, patients need a substantial level of background knowledge and skill in information use-i.e., health literacy. Practice implications: It is critical that health professionals respond to patient search for information on the Internet, first by guiding their search to relevant, authoritative, and responsive sources, and second by educating patients about how to interpret the information they are likely to encounter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-228
Number of pages6
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the Swiss National Foundation for funding several research projects related to health literacy. This article is an outcome of the conceptual work done for these projects.


  • Health literacy
  • Internet
  • Patient education
  • Patient empowerment


Dive into the research topics of 'Patient behavior and the benefits of artificial intelligence: The perils of "dangerous" literacy and illusory patient empowerment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this