WHO calls for caution in using artificial intelligence for health

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The World Health Organisation has called for caution in using artificial intelligence-generated large language model tools to protect and promote human well-being, human safety, autonomy, and preserve public health.

LLMs include some of the most rapidly expanding platforms such as ChatGPT, Bard, Bert and many others that imitate understanding, processing, and producing human communication.

Their meteoric public diffusion and growing experimental use for health-related purposes is generating significant excitement around the potential to support people’s health needs.

The global health body, in a press statement on Tuesday, said it is imperative that the risks be examined carefully when using LLMs to improve access to health information, as a decision-support tool, or even to enhance diagnostic capacity in under-resourced settings to protect people’s health and reduce inequity.

Part of the statement reads, “While WHO is enthusiastic about the appropriate use of technologies, including LLMs, to support health-care professionals, patients, researchers and scientists, there is concern that caution that would normally be exercised for any new technology is not being exercised consistently with LLMs. This includes widespread adherence to key values of transparency, inclusion, public engagement, expert supervision, and rigorous evaluation.

“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,” it said.

WHO recommends that policymakers ensure patient safety and protection while technology firms work to commercialise LLMs.

WHO proposes that these concerns be addressed, and clear evidence of benefit be measured before their widespread use in routine health care and medicine – whether by individuals, care providers, or health system administrators and policy-makers.




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