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Artificial intelligence in health: how to ensure it’s ethical and beneficial to everyone?


  • The use of artificial intelligence in healthcare is growing; action is required to minimise the potential risks involved, which include ethical, legal, and security issues.
  • A report from the World Health Organization provides 6 principles for regulation and governance of the technology.

The possible applications for artificial intelligence (AI) within healthcare are vast and varied. From disease screening and diagnostics to health research and drug development, it is expected that the use of AI in these areas will continue to grow. While the potential is huge, the use of AI for health faces many challenges. Unethical collection and use of data, biases in AI algorithms, unregulated use of AI by technology companies or governments, privacy fears, and potential environmental consequences are just a few concerns that have been raised.

To address some of these concerns, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a report on AI in health, which presents 6 principles for regulation and governance of the technology:

  1. Protect human autonomy: humans must remain in control of healthcare systems and medical decisions, privacy should be protected, and informed consent must be given.
  2. Promote human well-being and safety, and the public interest: AI technologies should be designed in accordance with regulatory requirements for safety, accuracy, and efficacy.
  3. Ensure transparency, explainability, and intelligibility: sufficient information should be made available before AI technologies are designed or deployed to allow public consultation and debate.
  4. Foster responsibility and accountability: stakeholders should be responsible for ensuring AI technologies are used under appropriate conditions and by appropriately trained people.
  5. Ensure inclusiveness and equity: health-related AI technologies should be designed to encourage the widest possible equitable use and access.
  6. Promote responsive and sustainable AI: technologies should be designed to minimise their environmental impact and assessed during actual use. Disruptions to workplaces and potential job losses resulting from the introduction of automated systems should be anticipated and prepared for.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General: “This important new report provides a valuable guide for countries on how to maximize the benefits of AI, while minimizing its risks and avoiding its pitfalls”.

The WHO state that the aim of these principles is to maximise the promise of AI technology to the public benefit of all countries and ensure stakeholders in both the private and public sector are held accountable to those whose health will be affected by its use.


What do you think – is the use of AI in healthcare currently adequately regulated?

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