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WHO warns of risks of AI in the health sector

WHO warns of risks of AI in the health sector
When used correctly, AI offers opportunities for medicine.
Image: colourbox.de

A WHO analysis published in Geneva on Thursday concluded that while the new technology could be helpful in various areas of medicine, if not developed with sufficient data, it could produce misleading and potentially dangerous results.

The so-called generative artificial intelligence is used to generate texts, images or videos, for example in programs such as ChatGPT. The programs can be fed with different types of data, convert them, process them and generate new data from them.

WHO expects widespread use

The WHO expects that generative artificial intelligence will be widely used in medicine in the future. The technology could be used in diagnosis, research and development and in the education of doctors and nurses. The WHO sees further potential for generative artificial intelligence in the management of health data and in supporting patients who want to find out about their symptoms.

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According to the analysis, the risk in using generative artificial intelligence lies in the quality of the data with which the models are trained. Non-representative data also distorts the results of the programs, which can result in incorrect, inaccurate, biased or incomplete diagnoses.

Consequences in the health sector are serious

The consequences in the health sector are correspondingly serious, warned the WHO. With the increasing use of new technology in the health sector, “errors, misuse and ultimately damage to the health of individuals are unavoidable,” says the analysis.

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The World Health Organization warns that it is only possible to benefit from the advantages of generative artificial intelligence if everyone involved uses the technology transparently and responsibly. To do this, rules would have to be drawn up and medical staff and patients would have to be involved in the development of AI programs for the healthcare sector.

Opportunity to improve healthcare

“Generative artificial intelligence has the opportunity to improve healthcare,” said WHO chief scientific officer Jeremy Farrar. “However, this can only be achieved if developers, decision-makers and users know the risks and feel responsible for them.”

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The WHO sees, among other things, a duty on large technology companies that develop programs for the health sector. In addition, the risk of cyber attacks must be taken into account when working with sensitive health data.

The WHO concluded its assessment of the opportunities and risks of generative artificial intelligence for healthcare by calling on governments to regulate the use of the new technology and to regularly review it.

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