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ICMR releases guidelines for artificial intelligence use in the health sector

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health


Source: DTE

Context: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has released Ethical Guidelines for AI in Healthcare and Biomedical Research to guide the effective, safe development/deployment/adoption of AI-based technologies.



  • India has a host of frameworks which marry technological advances with healthcare. These include –
    • The Digital Health Authority for leveraging Digital health Technologies under the National Health Policy (2017),
    • The Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (DISHA) 2018 and
    • The Medical Device Rules, 2017.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made inroads into every sector and healthcare is no exception.
  • Diagnosis and screening, therapeutics, preventive treatments, clinical decision-making, public health surveillance, etc., are among the recognised applications of AI in healthcare.
  • Since AI cannot be held accountable for the decisions it makes, an ethically sound policy framework is essential to guide AI technology development.


Highlights of the guidelines:

  • It outlined 10 key patient-centric ethical principles for AI application in the health sector for all stakeholders involved.
  • These are accountability and liability, autonomy, data privacy, collaboration, risk minimisation and safety, accessibility and equity, optimisation of data quality, non-discrimination and fairness, validity and trustworthiness.
  • The ethical review process came under the domain of the ethics committee which assesses a host of factors including data source, quality, safety, anonymization, etc.


Significance of the guidelines:

  • The autonomy principle ensures human oversight of the functioning and performance of the AI system.
    • It is also critical to attain informed consent from the patient on the physical, psychological and social risks involved.
  • It aims to prevent unintended or deliberate misuse and cyber attacks and mandates a benefit-risk assessment by an ethical committee.
  • It underlines the importance of regular internal and external audits to ensure the optimum functioning of AI systems.
  • It acknowledges the widespread availability of appropriate infrastructure and thus aims to bridge the digital divide.


Way ahead:

  • Standard practices to make the AI-based solutions technically sound, ethically justified and applicable to a large number of individuals with equity and fairness.
  • All the stakeholders should adhere to these guiding principles to make the technology more useful and acceptable to the users and beneficiaries of the technology.


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