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News Article

WHO Publishes Ethics Guidelines for AI in Healthcare

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 10/27/2021 - 14:17

A month after the UN warned that the improper use of artificial intelligence (AI) could put human rights at risk, WHO published its first guide on its ethics and governance to guide developers and users

“The implementation of AI in clinical practice is a promising area of development that is rapidly evolving, together with the other modern fields of precision medicine, genomics and teleconsultation,” explained to MBN Fernando de Obeso, CEO, Salud Fácil.

AI has the potential to revolutionize healthcare, lead to better care outcomes and improve the productivity and efficiency of care delivery, according to McKinsey & Company. It can also improve the day-to-day life of healthcare practitioners, letting them spend more time looking after patients and in so doing, raise staff morale and improve retention. AI can even get life-saving treatments to market faster, as was the case of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Nevertheless, questions have been raised about the impact AI could have on patients, practitioners and health systems and about its potential risks, followed by ethical debates about how AI and the data that underpins it should be used.

Due its rapid growth and endless potential, WHO identifies the ethical challenges and risks with the use of AI in healthcare in its “Ethics & Governance of Artificial Intelligence for Health” report. In it, WHO points to six principles to ensure AI works to the public benefit of all countries:

  1. Humans must remain in control of healthcare systems and medical decisions.
  2. AI products should be required to meet standards for safety, accuracy and efficacy within well-defined use cases.
  3. AI developers need to be transparent about how products are designed and function before they are used.
  4. Healthcare companies that rely on AI must ensure that they are used in the right conditions by trained personnel.
  5. AI must be designed to promote inclusion and equality.
  6. The performance of AI applications must be continuously and transparently evaluated during actual use.

The guidelines come as Mexico continues to explore and actively use AI. John Benjamin, Ambassador of the UK in Mexico told MBN that the AI, the internet of things (IoT) and mobile health (mHealth), will have the largest global impact in terms of new technology, reaching an estimated value of US$36.1 billion, US$543.3 billion and US$111.8 billion by 2025, respectively.

To date, numerous players from large multinational companies to tech startups are using AI to improve their solutions. For instance, José Léon, Co-founder, Aidy Technology, a platform that provides real-time feedback and statistics about hand-washing practices in hospitals to reduce nosocomial infections in hospitals, told MBN that “using AI to improve other processes is a way of keeping a high sanitary standard in clinics, not just hand hygiene.”

Fernando Sampaio, Country Lead & General Manager, Sanofi Mexico & Sanofi Pasteur, told MBN that the company is “taking advantage of AI and digital technologies to improve disease management, especially regarding chronic diseases.”

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst