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Governing Data and Artificial Intelligence for Health Care Developing an International Understanding

Updated: May 18, 2022


Background: Although advanced analytical techniques falling under the umbrella heading of artificial intelligence (AI) may improve health care, the use of AI in health raises safety and ethical concerns. There are currently no internationally recognized governance mechanisms (policies, ethical standards, evaluation, and regulation) for developing and using AI technologies in health care. A lack of international consensus creates technical and social barriers to the use of health AI while potentially hampering market competition.

Objective: The aim of this study is to review current health data and AI governance mechanisms being developed or used by Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP) member countries that commissioned this research, identify commonalities and gaps in approaches, identify examples of best practices, and understand the rationale for policies.

Methods: Data were collected through a scoping review of academic literature and a thematic analysis of policy documents published by selected GDHP member countries. The findings from this data collection and the literature were used to inform semistructured interviews with key senior policy makers from GDHP member countries exploring their countries' experience of AI-driven technologies in health care and associated governance and inform a focus group with professionals working in international health and technology to discuss the themes and proposed policy recommendations. Policy recommendations were developed based on the aggregated research findings.

Results: As this is an empirical research paper, we primarily focused on reporting the results of the interviews and the focus group. Semistructured interviews (n=10) and a focus group (n=6) revealed 4 core areas for international collaborations: leadership and oversight, a whole systems approach covering the entire AI pipeline from data collection to model deployment and use, standards and regulatory processes, and engagement with stakeholders and the public. There was a broad range of maturity in health AI activity among the participants, with varying data infrastructure, application of standards across the AI life cycle, and strategic approaches to both development and deployment. A demand for further consistency at the international level and policies was identified to support a robust innovation pipeline. In total, 13 policy recommendations were developed to support GDHP member countries in overcoming core AI governance barriers and establishing common ground for international collaboration.

Conclusions: AI-driven technology research and development for health care outpaces the creation of supporting AI governance globally. International collaboration and coordination on AI governance for health care is needed to ensure coherent solutions and allow countries to support and benefit from each other's work. International bodies and initiatives have a leading role to play in the international conversation, including the production of tools and sharing of practical approaches to the use of AI-driven technologies for health care.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; digital health; health policy.


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