Ethical Understanding in AI Governance for Healthcare

By Sumona Bose

January 18, 2024


The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in healthcare has brought about numerous benefits and opportunities. However, the lack of internationally recognized governance mechanisms for AI in healthcare poses challenges in terms of safety, ethics, and market competition. This article explores the need for ethical understanding in AI governance and its impact on AI, digital health, and governance.

Ensuring Safety and Addressing Ethical Concerns

The implementation of AI systems in frontline healthcare settings can raise safety concerns due to their unpredictable performance in diverse environments and unknown human-computer interactions. The lack of clarity around accountability and liability, as well as the insufficient education and preparedness among healthcare professionals, further exacerbate these concerns. To ensure the safety and ethical use of AI in healthcare, appropriate governance mechanisms such as policies, ethical standards, evaluation, and regulation need to be established.

Promoting Market Competition

The absence of international consensus on AI governance hampers market competition and innovation. An open and competitive ecosystem of innovators is crucial for healthcare systems worldwide to derive optimal benefits from AI investments. However, the lack of unified standards and diverse regulatory requirements force companies to develop different AI technologies for different markets. This lack of uniformity makes it challenging for start-ups and small businesses to compete with larger incumbents, potentially leading to their acquisition. Addressing this issue is essential to prevent provider monopolies and vendor lock-in, which have hindered technology transformation programs in the past.

Ensuring High Standards of Safety, Efficacy, and Ethics:

Healthcare is a safety-critical area where poorly designed AI-driven tools can cause harm to healthcare practitioners and patients. Therefore, it is crucial for all nations to strive for the same high standards of safety, efficacy, and ethics in health AI products, tools, and systems. Calls for greater international policy cooperation from academia, policymakers, and industries are growing louder. International coordination can help reduce gaps in guidance and regulation, make quality and safety standards visible and clear, and provide a common reference for developers and users.

International Initiatives for AI Governance

Recognizing the need for international cooperation in AI governance, several initiatives have been established. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) formed the Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence for Health (FG-AI4H) in 2018. This group is working on developing a benchmarking process and a standardized evaluation framework for health AI models. Understanding AI governance contributes to building a framework which can normalize the use of AI in healthcare.


The lack of internationally recognized governance mechanisms for AI in healthcare poses significant challenges in terms of safety, ethics, and market competition. To ensure the ethical use of AI in healthcare, it is crucial to establish appropriate governance mechanisms such as policies, ethical standards, evaluation, and regulation.

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