Where should the border between citizens’ privacy, human rights, and secondary use of data and data reuse for scientific, health, and public health purposes be set?
In recent years, digital transformation in the healthcare sector has generated a wealth of data that has the potential to improve patient care and health outcomes in myriad ways. It is crucial that this data be used first and foremost to serve patients and provide far-reaching positive benefits for society. This requires preserving fundamental rights, including privacy, and enhancing citizen trust and control over how and when their data can be used and for what purposes.
There is a pressing need for more public discussion to help patients better understand how and under what circumstances their data can be used. We must start by increasing public understanding of the value of data sharing for research. However, this also requires regulatory guidance on what the applicable “rules of the road” for processing health data should be, including setting roadblocks for uses that should be prohibited. The European Health Data Space can play a key role in advancing these discussions and setting standards that will help increase public trust, while at the same time promoting innovation that is rooted in ethics and European values.
Following Microsoft’s vision, ethical AI should be based on shared principles such as fairness, reliability, safety, privacy, security, and inclusiveness, and underscored through transparency and accountability.
How can we ensure the implementation of these principles into artificial intelligence solutions used in healthcare?
The potential applications of AI in healthcare are endless, as demonstrated by the many innovative responses we have seen to the COVID-19 pandemic across the EU. At the same time, European and global governments are also grappling with the many pressing societal and ethical questions related to the use of AI in healthcare.
What is clear is that trust is indispensable for encouraging greater uptake of any technology, but particularly for AI. To build trust, companies must accept greater responsibility for what they create. Microsoft has developed six ethical principles, aligned with the Commission’s Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI, that guide our development and deployment of AI. We are on a journey to refine and operationalize these principles internally as well as supporting our partners and customers to develop and deploy AI systems in a more responsible and trustworthy manner.
But principles only have value when they are put into practice. We have robust governance mechanisms in place to ensure that our development and deployment of AI reflect our principles. We have established two bodies to support these efforts: Microsoft’s AI, Ethics, and Effects in Engineering and Research (Aether) Committee, and our Office of Responsible AI. One key learning is that making progress on responsible AI requires principles, governance procedures, and ‘tools’ to identify and mitigate risks.
What is your vision for the future of healthcare?
During this extraordinary time, we are very much focused on ensuring that the tools we provide are up to the task of supporting our customers in their time of need. COVID-19, both the pandemic and the necessary response, created a new set of operational and clinical challenges for the healthcare industry to which healthcare providers had to pivot and adjust quickly. As the world continues to fight the pandemic again, we expect to see healthcare organizations continue to leverage newly implemented technology tools throughout the current recovery period and into the new normal. This crisis clearly indicated the need for connected views of patients, connecting of care teams, and connecting secure health data.
We know that technology has a role to play in accelerating progress for solutions to the pandemic and other pressing healthcare concerns. Our aim in this space is to make it easier for them to focus on what they do best – delivering better experiences, insights, and care. In the longer term, our vision and ambition is that health organizations can harness the benefits of AI to unlock biological insight and break data from silos for a truly personal understanding of human health and, in turn, make Intelligent Health possible. This is how responsible innovation can lead to a healthier society, better access to care, lower costs, and improved outcomes.
Casper Klynge is one of the key speakers during the European Health Forum Gastein 2020 “Dancing with elephants. New partnerships for health, democracy, business.’ www.ehfg.org