AI’s Evolution in Healthcare: Advancements, Challenges, and Ethical Considerations

By Sumona Bose

January 10, 2024

Introduction: AI’s Evolution in Healthcare

From improving imaging and electronic medical records to aiding in laboratory diagnosis and treatment, AI has become an indispensable tool in augmenting the intelligence of physicians and advancing medical knowledge. It has also played a crucial role in new drug discovery, preventive and precision medicine, extensive data analysis, and streamlining processes for health organizations.However, as AI continues to evolve, it faces several ethical and legal challenges. One of the key issues is the lack of accessibility to AI technologies in low-income and developing countries. While AI has made significant strides in improving healthcare outcomes, its benefits are not equally accessible to all societies. This disparity raises concerns about social gaps and the need for inclusive healthcare practices. AI’s evolution in healthcare can be identified as both complex and rewarding.

Figure 1: Tommy, the robot nurse, helps keep flesh-and-blood doctors and nurses safe from coronavirus at the Circolo Hospital in Varese, Italy

Challenges of AI in Healthcare

Ethical dilemmas, privacy and data protection, informed consent, and social justice are among the challenges associated with AI in healthcare. Before integrating AI into the healthcare system, practitioners and specialists must consider the four medical ethics principles: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. These principles should guide decision-making and ensure that AI is used responsibly and ethically in all aspects of healthcare.

To address privacy concerns, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enacted by the European Union (EU), influencing privacy legislation in other countries. Informed consent, a crucial aspect of ethical responsibility, involves effective communication between patients and healthcare providers. Patients have the right to be fully informed about their diagnoses, treatment processes, test results, costs, and other medical information. Informed consent should be specific, freely given, and unambiguous.

Another challenge posed by AI is the widening social gap. While AI provides access to vast amounts of information, it also exacerbates social inequality. Integrating AI into healthcare systems is a complex task, as human emotions and medical robots may not evolve together seamlessly. Collaboration and consultation between healthcare professionals become crucial in ensuring the ethical use of AI.

Figure 2: India’s robots such as Mitra are being used to reduce the risk of infection for medical staff and taking care of Covid-19 patients

Conclusion

Despite the immense potential of AI in healthcare, it is essential to consider the negative aspects that may outweigh its benefits. Experts must prioritize humanity and ethics when developing and implementing AI technologies in healthcare. Striking a balance between technological advancements and ethical considerations is crucial to ensure that AI serves the best interests of patients and society as a whole. AI’s evolution in healthcare has brought about significant advancements, but it also presents ethical challenges.

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