Why WHO Is Proposing New Rules For AI In Health?

Zaid Siddiqui

, News

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently proposed new guidelines to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) use in healthcare. Recognizing the immense potential of AI in healthcare, the WHO aims to address potential pitfalls associated with its deployment.


In a comprehensive set of guidelines, WHO has put forth over 40 recommendations for governmentstechnology companies, and healthcare providers for using AI in healthcare. The primary focus is ensuring the responsible use of large language models (LLMs), a type of AI, to enhance and safeguard public health.


LLMs can process various data inputs, such as text, videos, and images, and generate diverse outputs. The rapid adoption of these models, exemplified by platforms like ChatGPT, Bard, and Bert entering public awareness in 2023, has outpaced any previous consumer application.


Dr. Jeremy Farrar, Chief Scientist at WHO, acknowledges the potential benefits of generative AI technologies in healthcare but emphasizes the importance of identifying and addressing associated risks. According to Dr. Farrar, transparent information and policies are crucial for managing the design, development, and usage of LLMs to achieve better health outcomes and mitigate existing health inequities.


The WHO guidelines categorize five broad applications of LLMs in health: diagnosis, clinical care, and responding to patients’ queries. However, the document highlights documented risks, such as producing false, inaccurate, biased, or incomplete information, which could adversely impact individuals relying on such data for health decisions.


Concerns are also raised about the quality and potential bias in the data used to train LLMs, emphasizing the need for engagement with various stakeholders throughout the technology’s development and deployment stages. These stakeholders encompass governments, technology companies, healthcare providers, patients, and civil society.


WHO advocates for a cooperative effort among governments to regulate AI technologies, suggesting investments in ethical principles and values for access to not-for-profit or public infrastructure. The guidelines propose using laws, policies, and regulations to ensure that LLMs in healthcare adhere to ethical obligations and human rights standards, regardless of associated risks or benefits.


Additionally, WHO recommends the establishment of dedicated regulatory agencies to assess and approve LLMs and applications for healthcare, mandatory post-release auditing and impact assessments conducted by independent third parties are proposed for large-scale LLM deployments, with outcomes and impacts disaggregated by user characteristics.


A noteworthy suggestion is to involve a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including potential users, in the design stages of LLMs. WHO emphasizes a structured, inclusive, and transparent design process that allows stakeholders to voice ethical concerns and contribute to the development of AI applications. Stakeholders include medical providers, scientific researchers, healthcare professionals, and patients.


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