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WHO Guidance: Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence for Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines (18 January 2023) on ethics and governance of large multi-modal models (LMMs), a fast-growing generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

An Artificial Intelligence (AI) system can learn from data and perform automated tasks without having to be programmed by humans directly. It is often integrated into systems and tools to learn from data.

The guidance outlines over 40 recommendations for consideration by governments, technology companies, and healthcare providers to ensure the appropriate use of LMMs to promote and protect the health of populations. Several types of generative AI algorithms are addressed in this guidance, including large multi-modal models (LMMs), which can be fed multiple types of data and generate diverse outputs.

The new WHO guidance outlines five broad applications of LMMs for health:

  • Diagnosis and clinical care, such as responding to patients’ written queries;

  • Patient-guided use, such as for investigating symptoms and treatment;

  • Clerical and administrative tasks, such as documenting and summarizing patient visits within electronic health records;

  • Medical and nursing education, including providing trainees with simulated patient encounters, and;

  • Scientific research and drug development, including to identify new compounds

The guidance also details broader risks to health systems, such as accessibility and affordability of the best-performing LMMs.

To develop safe and effective LMMs, WHO emphasizes the importance of engaging various stakeholders: governments, technology companies, healthcare providers, patients, and civil society, throughout the entire development and deployment process of such technologies, including their oversight and regulation.


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