The World Health Organisation (WHO) has enlisted the key principles that must be followed while using artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies in healthcare. The report titled ‘Ethics and governance of artificial intelligence for health’ is a first comprehensive handbook of its kind, and has been curated by over twenty global experts over the course of two years.
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The public health agency endorses these guidelines be used as a basis for governments, technology developers, companies, civil society and inter-governmental organisations to adopt ethical approaches to the use of AI.
The first principle is to ensure the use of AI protects the human autonomy in medical decisions. It must also warrant protection of privacy and confidentiality and obtaining valid consent through appropriate legal frameworks for data protection.
The second principle states that AI technologies must be used keeping safety, accuracy and efficacy in place and must not cause physical or mental harm.
The third principle is to ensure transparency and explainability to AI technology by documenting sufficient information of the process, while the fourth principle highlights the need for accountability. Appropriate mechanisms should be available for questioning and redress for individuals and groups that are adversely affected by decisions based on algorithms, the report stated.
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The fifth principle focusses on ensuring inclusiveness and equity of all stakeholders irrespective of age, gender, income, race, ethnicity and ability. The final principle aims at promoting sustainable use of AI in health to minimise environmental consequences and maximise energy efficiency.
The use of AI in health systems has increased over the years, from pathology to drug discovery. However, unchecked optimism in AI could make matters worse, for example, by exacerbating the unequal distribution of access to healthcare technologies within and among wealthy and low-income countries, the study noted.
WHO also calls for collaboration between the public, governments and health experts to make the best and safest use of AI.