WHO Issues New Guidance on Generative AI

Jan. 18, 2024
The World Health Organization issued new guidance on Jan. 18 on large multi-modal models and provides over 40 recommendations for governments, tech companies, and healthcare providers

On Jan. 18, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced via a press release that it is releasing new guidance on the ethics and governance of large multi-modal models (LMMs)—a type of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology with applications across healthcare.

The guidance includes more than 40 recommendations for consideration by governments, technology companies, and healthcare providers to ensure the appropriate use of LMMs to promote and protect the health of populations.

The press release states that “LMMs can accept one or more type of data inputs, such as text, videos, and images, and generate diverse outputs not limited to the type of data inputted. LMMs are unique in their mimicry of human communication and ability to carry out tasks they were not explicitly programmed to perform. LMMs have been adopted faster than any consumer application in history, with several platforms—such as ChatGPT, Bard and Bert—entering the public consciousness in 2023.”

The new guidance outlines five general applications of LMMs for health:

  • Diagnosis and clinical care
  • Patient-guided use
  • Clerical and administrative tasks
  • Medical and nursing education
  • Scientific research and drug development

“While LMMs are starting to be used for specific health-related purposes, there are also documented risks of producing false, inaccurate, biased, or incomplete statements, which could harm people using such information in making health decisions,” the press release adds. “Furthermore, LMMs may be trained on data that are of poor quality or biased, whether by race, ethnicity, ancestry, sex, gender identity, or age.”

Additionally, the new guidance outlines more extensive risks to health systems like accessibility and affordability of the LMMs that perform the best. LMMs can also potentially encourage “automation bias” by healthcare professionals and patients—meaning errors can be overlooked that would have otherwise been identified. Furthermore, cybersecurity risks can endanger patient information.

“Generative AI technologies have the potential to improve health care but only if those who develop, regulate, and use these technologies identify and fully account for the associated risks,” said Jeremy Farrar, OBE FRCP FRS FMedSci, WHO Chief Scientist. “We need transparent information and policies to manage the design, development, and use of LMMs to achieve better health outcomes and overcome persisting health inequities.”

WHO has the press release.

Photo 170554520 | Business © Kseniia Kolesnikova | Dreamstime.com
ID 154742479 © Pop Nukoonrat | Dreamstime.com
Photo 284411646 | Ai Healthcare © Yuri Arcurs | Dreamstime.com