“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" Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General
Ethics and human rights must be put at the heart of AI design, deployment and use if it is to achieve its “great promise” and improve the delivery of healthcare and medicine worldwide, according to new WHO guidance.
And governments, providers, and designers must work together to address ethics and human rights concerns says the report, Ethics and governance of artificial intelligence for health – the result of two years of consultations with international experts.
“Like all new technology, artificial intelligence holds enormous potential for improving the health of millions of people around the world, but 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.
The report points out AI 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 says AI could also empower patients to take greater control of their own health care and better understand their evolving needs.
It could also enable resource-poor countries and rural communities, where patients often have restricted access to health care workers or medical professionals, to bridge gaps in access to health services.
However, it cautions against overestimating the benefits of AI for health, especially if it’s at the expense of core investments and strategies required to achieve universal health coverage.
It also points out that 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, cybersecurity, and the environment.
The report also emphasizes that systems trained primarily on data collected from individuals in high-income countries may not perform well for individuals in low-income and middle-income settings.
AI systems should therefore be carefully designed to reflect the diversity of socio-economic and health-care settings.
They should be accompanied by training in digital skills, community engagement and awareness-raising, especially for millions of healthcare workers who will require digital literacy or retraining if their roles and functions are automated, and who must contend with machines that could challenge the decision-making and autonomy of providers and patients.
The six principles for the basis of AI regulation and governance in health:
WHO says the principles will guide its future support of efforts to ensure the full potential of AI for healthcare and public health will be used for the benefit of all.