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WHO says using AI in health care carries a multitude of risks

The World Health Organization acknowledged the exciting potential AI could bring to health care, but it said it could breed misinformation and bias.
WHO says using AI in health care carries a multitude of risks
Posted at 5:54 PM, May 18, 2023

As more and more companies and industries begin fueling their work with artificial intelligence, the World Health Organization is calling for the health care industry to tap on the brakes.

In a statement, WHO said it was "enthusiastic about the appropriate use of technologies," but it's concerned the level of caution that would normally be practiced with any new technology isn't happening consistently with this new wave of systems.

"Precipitous adoption of untested systems could lead to errors by health care workers, cause harm to patients, erode trust in AI and thereby undermine (or delay) the potential long-term benefits and uses of such technologies around the world," WHO said in the statement.

A study by the Health Management Academy found 47.5% of health care systems are using AI, and the remaining 52.5% are looking into adopting it.

But WHO pointed to a multitude of risks that need to be carefully looked into before an AI tool like ChatGPT, Bard or Bert is used to access health information, or as a "decision-support tool."

In its list of concerns, WHO cautioned against the technology's credibility and its ability to protect sensitive health data.

It said AI could be trained on biased data, which can then generate misleading or false information. And although the technology's responses may seem "authoritative," their content can include "highly convincing disinformation" that could be hard to differentiate from "reliable health content," WHO warned.

This call for caution comes amid ongoing debate about where artificial intelligence fits in today's world.

As for health care, one Pew Research Center poll found that 60% of Americans would be uncomfortable if their health care provider relied on artificial intelligence for their own health care, and 75% said health care providers will move too fast in adopting the technology before understanding its risks.

But those stats haven't stopped many companies — like Microsoft and Apple — from pushing ahead, especially as other stats say the AI health care market size could increase from $11 billion in 2021 to $188 billion in 2030.

WHO says to protect human well-being and public health, it's "imperative" the risks are assessed before an even wider adoption of the technology takes place.

SEE MORE: Could AI be the key to detecting lung cancer years in advance?

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