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WHO Says AI in Healthcare is Only Being Used by the Wealthiest

The World Health Organisation has called for Artificial Intelligence to be used to improve everybody’s healthcare, not only the wealthiest’s.

WHO’s director general Margaret Chan raised the alarm during a talk at the United Nations’ AI Summit for Good, underlining that— while the richer countries are already benefitting from AI’s medical applications, others are being left behind.

“What good does it do to get early diagnoses of skin or breast cancer if a country does not provide the opportunity for treatment or if the price of medicines are not affordable?” she said.

“Many developing countries don’t have health data to mine. And they don’t have functioning systems for registering vital causes of death stats. Enthusiasms for smart machines reflect the perspectives of well-resourced companies and wealthy countries. We need a wider perspective.”

Chan said that medical facilities in some parts of the world have little or no access to electricity, clean water, or sterilisation equipment whereas the most developed countries are reaping the benefits of machine learning and other advanced AI tech for diagnosing and curing diseases.

She suggested that technology companies and AI researchers could help mitigate the current predicament by deploying tools that might help patients keep track of their health and put the patients in the driving seat.

“AI experts, what gadgets can you come up with to empower individuals to make healthy choices?” she asked.

“Machines can aid the work of doctors and streamline processes leading to decisions. But AI cannot replace doctors and nurses in their interactions with patients,” Chan added.

The UN official also stressed the necessity of  human oversight over AI-driven diagnoses, and the importance of protecting patients’ privacy in an era when healthcare is going to be increasingly dominated by big data analysis, data sharing, wearables and AI.

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