WHO Releases Ethical Guidance for AI in Healthcare

Jan. 25, 2024
Increased use of AI in healthcare prompts WHO to provide ethical recommendations

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced new guidance on the ethics and governance of large multi-modal models (LMMs). The guidelines provide over 40 recommendations for consideration by governments, technology companies, and healthcare providers to ensure proper use of LMMs, the news release states.

LMMs are defined as a fast-growing generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology. It can accept one or more types of data input and generate varied outputs not limited to the sort of data fed into the algorithm. It is expected that LMMs will have extensive use and application in health care, scientific research, public health, and drug development.

While LMMs are starting to be used for specific health-related purposes, there are documented risks of generating false, inaccurate, biased, or incomplete statements, which could harm people using such information in health decisions. Additionally, LMMs may be trained on data of poor quality or bias.

WHO laid out the main ethical principles for using AI in health. They are to protect autonomy, encourage human well-being, ensure transparency, foster responsibility, safeguard inclusiveness, and promote responsive and sustainable AI.

WHO recommends governments use regulations to ensure that LMMs used in health care meet human rights standards. They advise using a regulatory agency to assess LMMs. WHO suggests utilizing auditing and impact assessments by independent third parties when an LMM is deployed on a large scale.

Directions are also provided for developers of LMMs. Potential users and all direct and indirect stakeholders, including medical providers, scientific researchers, health care professionals, and patients, should be involved from the early stages of AI development and given opportunities to raise ethical issues and provide input. Developers should also be able to predict and understand potential secondary outcomes.

“Generative AI technologies have the potential to improve health care but only if those who develop, regulate, and use these technologies identify and fully account for the associated risks,” said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, WHO chief scientist, in a statement.

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