he World Health Organization , in a report released on Monday, has cautioned against unregulated use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in health system.
“Like all new technology, artificial intelligence holds enormous potential for improving the health of millions of people around the world, but like all technology it can also be misused and cause harm,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This important new report provides a valuable guide for countries on how to maximize the benefits of AI, while minimizing its risks and avoiding its pitfalls,” he added.
Along with the report, “Ethics and governance of artificial intelligence for health” WHO also published six broad principles regarding use of AI in the health system.
Artificial intelligence can be, and in some wealthy countries is already being used to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and screening for diseases; to assist with clinical care; strengthen health research and drug development, and support diverse public health interventions, such as disease surveillance, outbreak response, and health systems management. It could also empower patients to take greater control of their own health care and better understand their evolving needs.
However, WHO’s new report cautions against overestimating the benefits of AI for health, especially when this occurs at the expense of core investments and strategies required to achieve universal health coverage.
“Opportunities are linked to challenges and risks, including unethical collection and use of health data; biases encoded in algorithms, and risks of AI to patient safety, cyber security, and the environment,” said WHO in a press release.
The report warns about potential unregulated use of AI subordinating the rights and interests of patients and communities to the powerful commercial interests of technology companies or the interests of governments in surveillance and social control.
It also emphasizes that systems trained primarily on data collected from individuals in high-income countries may not perform well for individuals in low- and middle-income settings.
WHO has come out with six principles to ensure AI works for the public interest in all countries. The UN body has said that privacy and confidentiality should be protected, and patients must give valid informed consent through appropriate legal frameworks for data protection.
Another principle says, the designers of AI technologies should satisfy regulatory requirements for safety, accuracy and efficacy for well-defined use cases or indications. Measures of quality control in practice and quality improvement in the use of AI must be available.
WHO has further suggested that sufficient information be published or documented before the design or deployment of an AI technology. Such information must be easily accessible and facilitate meaningful public consultation and debate on how the technology is designed and how it should or should not be used.
It also advocated fostering responsibility and accountability, ensuring inclusiveness and equity, and promoting AI that is responsive and sustainable.