The WHO releases the world's first report on Artificial Intelligence in Health

30 AUGUST 2021

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to strengthen healthcare but ethical considerations and human rights must be fundamental in the design, development and deployment of AI technologies.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently published the report Ethics and Governance of Artifial Intellignece for health, the result of two years of consultations by a group of 20 international experts on ethics, digital technology, law, human rights and health.

“The report provides a valuable guide for countries on how to maximise the benefits of the AI, minimising risks and avoiding cheating,” said the WHO General Director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus  in the presentation last June. According to the study, the AI is already “prepared to strengthen healthcare and health research, drug development, diagnosis of infectious diseases, and public health monitoring.

AI focused on health

In richer countries, the use of the AI has already begun to transform health systems. It is currently used for radiological diagnosis in oncology, such as colonoscopy, mammography, and brain image. In addition, AI algorithms based on data from RNA and DNA sequences support the treatment of cancer with immunotherapy.

AI is also being used for the detection, management, treatment and care of patients with tuberculosis. On the other hand, predictive systems have been able to identify the risk of suffocation in childbirth using image technology. In Singapore, AI solutions are used to address high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Predictive modeling is used to identify people with the greatest risk of developing chronic diseases in early intervention programs. The aim of the use of the AI is to slow down the progression of afflictions, reduce complications in patients and health costs.

Countries with low and medium incomes (LMICs) are the most backward in AI applications in health systems. According to the report, this technology could fill the gaps in health provision and services. LMICs have a permanent shortage of health workers, a burden of disease and large populations that are poorly served. The AI could provide support for healthcare personnel in diagnostics, as well as speeding up X-ray analysis and pathology slides.

Currently, in India, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia, a pilot program of tools based on the IA is underway to detect cervical cancer. In these countries with few resources, the AI could also serve to manage antiretroviral therapy in cases of HIV infection, predicting drug resistance and supporting therapy optimization.