WHO and ITU to collaborate on AI in healthcare

World Health Organisation and Telecoms Union will develop framework for AI adoption in healthcare

Tags: Artifical intelligenceBig dataData analyticsInternational Telecommunication UnionWorld Health Organization (WHO)
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WHO and ITU to collaborate on AI in healthcare The ITU and WHO aim to ensure that everyone worldwide is able to benefit from the potential uses of AI in healthcare, says Zhou.
By  Mark Sutton Published  July 25, 2018

Two United Nations agencies, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will collaborate to develop the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare on a global scale.

The two agencies will work together through the newly established ITU Focus Group on AI for Health to develop an international ‘AI for health' standards framework and to identify use cases of AI in the health sector that can be scaled-up for global impact.

"AI could help patients to assess their symptoms, enable medical professionals in underserved areas to focus on critical cases, and save great numbers of lives in emergencies by delivering medical diagnoses to hospitals before patients arrive to be treated," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. "ITU and WHO plan to ensure that such capabilities are available worldwide for the benefit of everyone, everywhere."

The potential of in healthcare and the need for co-ordination was identified at the second AI for Good Global Summit held in May.

The focus group will lead an intensive two-year analysis of international standardization opportunities towards delivery of a benchmarking framework of international standards and recommendations by ITU and WHO for the use of AI in the health sector.

The ITU Focus Group on AI for Health will also engage researchers, engineers, practitioners, entrepreneurs and policy makers to develop guidance documents for national administrations, to steer the creation of policies that ensure the safe, appropriate use of AI in the health sector.

"I believe the subject of AI for health is both important and useful for advancing health for all," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"1.3 billion people have a mobile phone and we can use this technology to provide AI-powered health data analytics to people with limited or no access to medical care. AI can enhance health by improving medical diagnostics and associated health intervention decisions on a global scale," said Thomas Wiegand, ITU Focus Group on AI for Health Chairman, and Executive Director of the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, as well as professor at TU Berlin.

He added, "The health sector is in many countries among the largest economic sectors or one of the fastest-growing, signalling a particularly timely need for international standardization of the convergence of AI and health."

The group will look at areas including the delivery of health services powered by AI over mobile phones, and the of AI in data analytics, particularly extracting data from laboratory results or medical imagery.

As part of this, the ITU Focus Group for AI for Health will also produce an assessment framework to standardize the evaluation and validation of AI algorithms -- including the identification of structured and normalized data to train AI algorithms. It will develop open benchmarks with the aim of these becoming international standards.

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