Ethics, the Challenge of Using AI in Healthcare

Based on a survey performed by Dataiku in 2020, the main organizational challenge that delays the use of AI in healthcare settings is ethics. Even though particular concerns vary by company, the concerns could typically be classified as informed permission to use information, safety and visibility, algorithmic fairness, and data privacy.

These issues aren’t distinct to the U.S. nor to the medical care sector. Governments and regulating institutions throughout the world have fought to resolve this issue with a lot of implementing rules to govern how to use AI. In the U.S., a patchwork of state and government laws partly tackles the challenge, however, there are still many numerous concerns.

In order for governments and regulating companies to make fair and solid legislation, in 2021 the World Health Organization (WHO) released the “Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence for Health” guidance. This in-depth publication recommends six important ethical principles for review by governments, companies, developers, and the community in general:

  • Protect human autonomy
  • Promote AI that is reactive and sustainable
  • Ensure openness, explainability, and intelligibility
  • Promote human well-being, safety, and the public interest
  • Instill responsibility and accountability
  • Ensure inclusiveness and equity

Though political influences have caused the U.S. AI strategy to move towards a market-directed strategy, the National Defense Authorization Act 2021 advised the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create a system for reliable AI systems that makes common meanings and characterizations for elements of trustworthiness.

Except for protecting human autonomy, the five important ethical principles left recommended by WHO probably will be integrated into the system in accordance with NIST’s most recent report to Congress. When passed by Congress, the NIST AI standards can take care of a lot of the issues regarding the ethics of AI in healthcare.

How NIST Standards Can Speed up AI Usage in Healthcare

In January 2021, an update of the HITECH Act was implemented. The amendment allowed the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights to exercise enforcement discretion whenever investigating security breaches when the breached company can prove its steady compliance for twelve months with the “requirements, guidelines, recommendations, strategies, and processes created under section 2(c)(15) of the NIST Act” or a related Act.

There is no proof that HIPAA Covered Entities and Business Associates became more serious with their compliance obligations after the effectivity of the HITECH Act update. Nevertheless, it is obvious that in spite of a considerable rise in the number of financial penalties released by HHS’ Office for Civil Rights in the last two years, there were just four related to violations of the Security Rule.

When there are changes to the NIST Act to include AI criteria, and when a law is approved enabling the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights to enforce discretion if the standards are used in healthcare companies, this could speed up AI usage in healthcare as many issues regarding the ethics of AI in healthcare would be resolved, it would additionally take care of the second biggest obstacle to the usage of AI in healthcare (as per Dataiku) – the insufficiency of regulatory guidance.

The Potential of AI in Healthcare

The potential of AI in healthcare is uncertain when issues regarding the ethics of AI in healthcare and the insufficiency of regulatory guidance are permitted to carry on. When the circumstance stays as it is, AI will be integrated into healthcare operations in piecemeal phases – which will go on to put value to healthcare procedures and enhance the patient experience however may lead to inequalities that can make the broader usage of AI in healthcare a lot more challenging later on.

On the other hand, despite the improvement of AI technologies, federal agencies including the HHS could bring in momentary guidance on the usage of AI until the development of effective standards. This will give healthcare companies more confidence to use AI technologies to benefit patients, companies, and the general public.

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Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson is a news reporter specializing in information technology cyber security. Mark has contributed to leading publications and spoken at international forums with a focus on cybersecurity threats and the importance of data privacy. Mark is a computer science graduate.