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AI in Healthcare: a blog from Dr Vicky Chico

Last updated on 29 Jan 2020

Artificial intelligence (AI) offers huge promise for the provision of better services and treatment across health and social care.

AI could have significant impact on early diagnosis, prevention and precision treatment of disease. It could facilitate and monitor comfortable independent living, allowing people to stay in their own home. And it could help us to better understand how people use services, allowing us to provide safe and efficient care driven by public needs. Ultimately, this technology could save lives, time and money.

However, the NHS is a foundationally a human organisation and we love it because of its dedicated people. People worry that AI will replace those people. So, to harness the huge potential of AI in healthcare we need to take the public with us. We need to ensure that new technologies are developed in a socially and ethically acceptable way that promotes engagement, involvement and transparency.  We want the public, patients and professionals to engage with AI in healthcare with trust and hope, rather than fear and confusion.

Good governance and appropriate use of patient data are key factors in facilitating ethical development of AI in a way which our diverse publics find acceptable. The 2019 State of the Nation Survey demonstrates that some developers are unaware of the relevant regulatory and ethics governance processes and therefore may not have the appropriate ethics and regulatory approvals in place. 

The Health Research Authority (HRA) provides guidance to developers and researchers so that they recognise, understand and comply with the legal and ethics governance processes that apply to data-driven innovations. We’re currently working with key stakeholders including the National Data Guardian, NHS Digital, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the Information Commissioners Office to develop more detailed guidance that covers development through proof of concept, testing in the care environment, direct care service evaluation and post-market surveillance. We hope that when this guidance is published it provides a clear guide for those developing and deploying AI and data-driven technologies which ensures an ethical and legal process for developing safe and effective innovation. Watch this space.

Dr Vicky Chico, the HRA's Data Policy Advisor

Dr Vicky Chico

Data Policy Advisor

Health Research Authority

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