Ensuring Ethical AI Implementation: HealthAI Launches Global Community of Practice
An artist's depiction of artificial intelligence.
An artist’s depiction of artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can save lives – but “we need to get the regulations right,” according to Dr Ricardo Baptista Leite, CEO of HealthAI, the agency responsible for artificial intelligence in health.

To address the urgent need for the robust regulation of AI in the healthcare sector, HealthAI has initiated a worldwide community of practice (CoP), the organisation said last week. This initiative aims to strengthen each nation’s capacity to create well-informed regulations that promote AI’s ethical and fair utilisation in healthcare.

“Our global community of practice is a critical platform for addressing the urgent need for regulation, bringing together global leaders from all sectors to ensure AI’s impact on health is positive, responsible and inclusive,” Leite said.

The CoP will be a platform for discussing AI in healthcare and sharing experiences with responsible AI use in this field. It will bring together organisations, policymakers, technology experts, and leaders in health AI, fostering potential collaborations.

“Since equity is core to our mission, we wanted to ensure a bottom-up approach be made to ensure the voices of all stakeholders from around the world would be heard as part of the development of these AI regulatory standards and in the implementation of these standards,” Leite told Health Policy Watch.

He said the CoP would be open to all institutions – public, private, academic, patient and community-based organisations, civil society movements and technologists – by application.

“We want to give a voice to those not heard as part of international processes and for us to be an important sounding board as we move forward and contribute to building this global ecosystem,” Leite added.

HealthAI has a three-year strategy implementation plan that focusses on identifying at least 10 pioneer countries that it can help support and provide technical assistance. Leite said one of the challenges in many countries is the “absolute absence” of any form of expertise at the regulatory level. “To be able to address this matter seriously in the future, countries will need to invest in developing that capacity.”

Leite noted that although organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), UNESCO, and the OECD are tasked with setting global standards, the countries must implement and apply these standards in practical situations.

The future of AI in healthcare (illustrative)
The future of AI in healthcare (illustrative)

Regulatory confidence in technology

There is a debate about whether regulations could hinder technology adoption in healthcare. However, Leite said HealthAI’s analysis is that many companies are hesitant to use technology due to concerns about legal liability in case of issues. His team believes establishing a regulatory framework will give companies the confidence to implement technology solutions.

HealthAI, including through its CoP, aims to create an online global repository of validated AI solutions. This platform will be open source and showcase approved technologies, their functions, and their compliance with ethical AI standards.

“This is especially important for startups in low- and middle-income countries,” Leite said. “Let’s say their national regulator just approved their technology. Now, suddenly, you can see their technology shown on this platform so that their innovations can be used in the Global North, meaning the tools developed in lower-resource settings could be a source of inspiration in high-income countries and not always the other way around.”

At the same time, Leite said, another global network goal would be establishing an early warning system. This system would detect unintended negative impacts of AI technologies worldwide, triggering a red flag for all agencies to take immediate action.

“This is important to ensure that governments can act in a timely manner and avoid harming citizens,” Leite said.

WHO Announces S.A.R.A.H.

HealthAI’s announcement about the CoP followed WHO’s announcement of S.A.R.A.H., a digital health promoter prototype with enhanced empathetic response powered by generative AI.

S.A.R.A.H stands for “Smart AI Resource Assistant for Health.”

“For too long health has often been viewed as a passive beneficiary of innovation rather than a driver of it,” wrote Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe in an article for Health Policy Watch. “It’s time to change this mentality and harness the power of innovation.”

S.A.R.A.H is an advanced AI resource assistant designed for healthcare. WHO said the tool incorporates the latest language models and cutting-edge technology to engage users round the clock in eight languages, covering a wide range of health topics across various devices. It will provide information on a number of health topics, including healthy habits and mental health, cancer, heart and lung disease, and diabetes.

“S.A.R.A.H gives us a glimpse of how artificial intelligence could be used in future to improve access to health information in a more interactive way,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Image Credits: Quick Creator, Pexels.

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