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21st March 2023 (8 Topics)

Guidelines for artificial intelligence use in the health sector


The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has released Ethical Guidelines for AI in Healthcare and Biomedical Research to “guide effective yet safe development, deployment and adoption of AI-based technologies”.

About ICRM Guidelines:

  • The autonomy principle ensures human oversight of the functioning and performance of the AI system. It is critical to attain consent of the patient who must also be informed of the physical, psychological and social risks involved. 
  • The safety and risk minimisation principle is aimed at preventing “unintended or deliberate misuse”, anonymised data delinked from global technology to avoid cyber-attacks.
  • The accountability and liability principle underlines the importance of regular internal and external audits to ensure optimum functioning of AI systems which must be made available to the public.

Artificial intelligence and healthcare:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI), where computers perform tasks that are usually assumed to require human intelligence, is currently being discussed in nearly every domain of science and engineering.
  • The term broadly refers to computing technologies that resemble processes associated with human intelligence, such as reasoning, learning and adaptation, sensory understanding, and interaction.

Role/ Applications of AI in healthcare:

AI programs have been developed and applied to practices such as diagnosis processes, treatment protocol development, drug development, personalized medicine, and patient monitoring and care.

  • Medical Research AI can be used to analyse and identify patterns in large and complex datasets faster and more precisely than has previously been possible.
    • It can also be used to search the scientific literature for relevant studies, and to combine different kinds of data for example, to aid drug discovery.
    • Researchers have developed an AI ‘robot scientist’ called Eve which is designed to make the process of drug discovery faster and more economical.
  • Clinical Care: AI has the potential to aid the diagnosis of disease. Using AI to analyse clinical data, research publications, and professional guidelines could also help to inform decisions about treatment.
  • Precision Medicine: Genetics and genomics look for mutations and links to disease from the information in DNA. With the help of AI, body scans can spot cancer and vascular diseases early and predict the health issues people might face based on their genetics.
  • Diagnosis: It is estimated that more than 80% of the health data is unstructured, making it invisible to current systems, according to a PWC report. Unlike humans, AI decisions are all evidence-based and free of cognitive biases or overconfidence, enabling rapid analysis and vastly reducing even eliminating misdiagnosis.
  • Monitoring of Chronic Conditions: Conditions like diabetes, cholesterol, fertility issues and cardiac heath are managed by regular monitoring and lifestyle changes. Connected POC devices help generate a lot of data about the user’s body parameters.

Concerns with Artificial Intelligence in healthcare:

  • Cultural Acceptance:Patients often seek assurance from doctors physically present. This creates aversion to technology diagnosing. Elderlies are found to be more averse to adopting new technology.
  • Data Safety/ Privacy: AI systems can challenge privacy through real time collection and use of a multitude of data points that may or may not be disclosed to an individual in the form of a notice with consent taken. Hackers can exploit AI solutions to collect private and sensitive information such as Electronic Health Records.
  • Liability: In case of error in diagnosis malfunction of a technology, or the use of inaccurate or inappropriate data the question arises of who the liability would fall upon the doctor or the software developer.
  • Malicious use of AI: While AI has the potential to be used for good, it could also be used for malicious purposes. For example, there are fears that AI could be used for covert surveillance or screening. 
  • Effects on patients: Concerns have been raised about a loss of human contact and increased social isolation if AI technologies are used to replace staff or family time with patients.

Way Forward:

The government has formulated a seven-point strategy as a framework for the adoption of AI in India. This includes developing methods for human machine interactions, ensuring safety and security of AI systems, creating a competent workforce in line with AI and R&D needs, understanding and addressing the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI, and measuring and evaluating AI technologies through standards and benchmarks, among others.


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