07 Mar NHS launches leading pilot scheme to test its AI healthcare systems for bias
NHS launches leading pilot scheme to test its AI healthcare systems for bias
The NHS is running a new programme to find out whether there are biases within AI algorithms used in its healthcare systems. If so, it could mean that decisions are made that worsen outcomes for certain patients based on their background.
The organisation in charge of the new pilot programme is the NHS AI Lab. It will be using Algorithmic Impact Assessments (AIA) to assess the potential risks and biases of AI technologies within healthcare in order to protect patients, the public and NHS data.
The NHS AI Lab is guided by the Ada Lovelace Institute, which has mapped out a step-by-step guide on how AIAs can be used in the real world. Alongside this detailed methodology, the Institute also published its research on the impact of AI technology on society, the environment and people.
Explaining the importance of AIA testing for the NHS and healthcare systems more generally, the Institute’s Octavia Reeve said:
“[These] assessments have the potential to create greater accountability for the design and deployment of AI systems in healthcare, which can in turn build public trust in the use of these systems, mitigate risks of harm to people and groups, and maximise their potential for benefit.”
A “world-leading approach to improve ethical adoption of AI in healthcare”
The UK Government has said that while AI has the potential to transform health and care services, it also comes with its risks. The technology could exacerbate existing healthcare inequalities, particularly within minority groups, if concerns over algorithmic biases aren’t addressed.
There is also the crucial issue of public trust, especially in areas such as screening, diagnosis and data protection. It is hoped that continuing use of AIAs to monitor bias within algorithms could help to increase the transparency and accountability of AI-backed healthcare systems.
In a recent press release, Innovation Minister Lord Kamall said:
“This pilot once again demonstrates the UK is at the forefront of adopting new technologies in a way that is ethical and patient-centred.
“By allowing us to proactively address risks and biases in systems which will underpin the health and care of the future, we are ensuring we create a system of healthcare which works for everyone, no matter who you are or where you are from.”
The government has also said that the pilot will act in tandem with other work by the NHS AI Lab on the data used by AI systems. Experts are working on ensuring that datasets used to train and test AI are as inclusive and diverse as possible.
Plans are also underway for the NHS to support patient and public involvement in the AI development process. By engaging key stakeholders at an earlier stage, there is a greater flexibility to make adjustments and for concerns to be addressed. Overall, it is hoped this could improve the clinical integration of AI into the NHS and deliver an enhanced patient experience.
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