Ethical Guidelines for AI in Healthcare


    In News

    • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has released the country’s first Ethical Guidelines for Application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Biomedical Research and Healthcare.

    What is Artificial intelligence(AI)?

    • Artificial intelligence(AI) is defined as a system’s ability to correctly interpret external data and to use those learnings to achieve specific goals and tasks through flexible adaptation.
      • AI uses complex computer algorithms to emulate human cognition albeit with far reaching capabilities of analyzing large datasets.

    Applications of AI in Healthcare

    • The induction of AI into healthcare has the potential to be the solution for significant challenges faced in the field of healthcare like diagnosis and screening, therapeutics, preventive treatments, clinical decision making, public health surveillance, complex data analysis, and predicting disease outcomes. 
    • For example, Computed Tomography (CT) scans can be automatically read by AI as well as radiologists. 
    • Tuberculosis screening can be done by AI using Chest X-Rays.
    • As a result, AI for health has been recognized as one of the core areas by researchers as well as the governments.

    Need for the Guidelines

    • As AI technologies get further developed and applied in clinical decision making, it is important to have processes that discuss accountability in case of errors for safeguarding and protection. 
    • Despite all the potential benefits, adopting AI for health brings to the fore several ethical, legal, and social concerns, especially as it pertains to its development and deployment. 
    • Development, as well as deployment of AI-based solutions in healthcare, span a number of issues, including those related to data safety, data sharing, and data privacy.
    • It is therefore mandatory to have an ethical and regulatory framework before AI for Health becomes part of health research and delivery of healthcare. 

    The Guidelines

    • Aim: To create an ethics framework which can assist in the development, deployment, and adoption of AI-based solutions.
    • For whom: These guidelines are to be used by experts and ethics committees reviewing research proposals involving use of AI based tools and technologies. 
      • These are applicable to health professionals, technology developers, researchers, entrepreneurs, hospitals, research institutions, organization(s), and laypersons who want to use AI technology and techniques in healthcare.
    • The guidelines include sections on ethical principles, guiding principles for stakeholders, an ethics review process, governance of AI use, and informed consent.
    • As per the guidelines, the ethical review process for AI in health comes under the domain of the ethics committee. 
    • The guidelines will be updated time to time as and when need arises.

    Government Initiatives to Streamline AI in Healthcare

    • India already offers streamlining of AI technologies in various sectors including healthcare through the National Health Policy (2017), National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB 2019), and Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (2018) proposed by the Health Ministry which will pave the way for the establishment of the National Data Health Authority and other health information exchanges.

    About ICMR

    • It is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, and is one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world.
    • Background: In 1911, the Government of India set up the Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA) with the specific objective of sponsoring and coordinating medical research in the country.
      • It was redesignated the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 1949.
    • The governing body of the council is presided over by the Union Health Minister. It is assisted in scientific and technical matters by a scientific advisory board comprising eminent experts in different biomedical disciplines.
    • The ICMR is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
    • In 2007 the organization established the Clinical Trials Registry – India, which is India’s national registry for clinical trials.