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EU health commissioner advocates safeguards for AI in healthcare

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides

The European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides on Thursday stressed the importance of implementing safeguards for AI-driven tools in healthcare, underling the need for human oversight.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, she expressed optimism about the potential of AI in revolutionising healthcare. However, she also stressed “the necessity of having proper guardrails in place”.

Kyriakides discussed the EU’s efforts to regulate AI through the Artificial Intelligence Act, focusing on establishing safeguards for responsible AI use.

She also underlined the significance of the European Health Data Space (EHDS), a regulatory framework enabling the sharing of health data among EU member states.

Addressing concerns about data sensitivity, especially in the context of the EHDS, Kyriakides acknowledged that building trust is crucial.

“Patients need to have control over their health data, with the ability to choose what information they want to share and with whom. The Commission aims to ensure anonymity for health data collected for research purposes, addressing potential privacy concerns,” she said.

Kyriakides added that maintaining a “human touch” in AI processes was “essential”.

“AI procedures and outcomes need to be explainable and understandable to both doctors and patients,” she said.

Using the example of AI in radiology for cancer detection, she then underscored the need for medical expertise despite the potential time-saving benefits of AI systems.

Kyriakides referenced the Cancer Imaging Initiative, launched by the European Commission in 2023, as a model for training AI technologies on large datasets.

“While AI can enhance diagnostic processes, medical expertise remains essential for accurate assessments and decisions,” she explained.

In conclusion, Kyriakides said that responsible AI implementation in healthcare requires a delicate balance between embracing technological advancements and preserving human control and understanding.

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