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AI for health can't leave older people behind, says WHO

June 21, 2023

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a policy brief highlighting the importance of addressing ageism and bias in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for health. The brief, titled “Ageism in Artificial Intelligence for Health,” presents a comprehensive set of measures to ensure older people are not left behind in developing, implementing, and utilising AI tools.

HCPA actively promotes the participatory design of AI technologies involving older individuals. We recognise the need for age-diverse data science teams and the collection of representative datasets to avoid biases.

AI technologies can potentially revolutionise healthcare, benefiting older individuals in particular. Remote patient monitoring and drug development tools, among others, can significantly enhance community and long-term care. However, there is a growing concern that these technologies may perpetuate existing ageism and widen disparities in care.

The WHO brief focuses on biases affecting older people while acknowledging the need to address other ethical challenges related to race, gender, and socioeconomic status. It emphasises that ageist stereotypes, prejudices, or discriminations should not be encoded in AI technology or manifest in its use. Such biases can undermine healthcare quality for older individuals and limit their engagement with technology due to flawed assumptions about their preferences and capabilities.

To maximise the benefits of AI for older people, the WHO outlines several strategies:

  1. Participatory design of AI technologies involving older individuals.
  2. Formation of age-diverse data science teams.
  3. Age-inclusive data collection to ensure representative datasets.
  4. Investment in digital infrastructure and digital literacy for older people, healthcare providers, and caregivers.
  5. Recognition of older people’s rights to consent and contest AI recommendations for health.
  6. Implementation of governance frameworks and regulations that empower and collaborate with older individuals.
  7. Increased research to explore new applications of AI and mitigate bias.
  8. Establishment of robust ethics processes in the development and application of AI.

The WHO underscores that AI technologies can strengthen health and social care for older people by identifying risks and enabling individuals to meet their specific needs. However, it emphasises the importance of identifying and eliminating ageism from the entire lifecycle of AI technologies.

At HCPA, we are excited about the potential of AI technologies to strengthen health and social care for older people. Addressing bias in AI is not limited to technical aspects but also requires a comprehensive approach that includes user experience, training, and discussions. This approach is essential to ensure that AI technologies align with ethical standards and fulfil their promise in public health and medicine.

The policy brief aligns with the global report on ageism, which is the foundation for the Global Campaign to Combat Ageism. The report highlights the pervasiveness and harmfulness of ageism while emphasising the possibility of its elimination. It advocates for policy and law reforms, educational activities, intergenerational interventions, and improved data and research on ageism to foster an inclusive society for people of all ages.

The WHO urges the integration of age-inclusive AI technologies in healthcare, urging the elimination of ageism in their design, development, use, and evaluation. By implementing the recommended measures, society can harness the full potential of AI for the well-being of older people and promote a world that values and respects individuals of all ages.

Join the movement for age-inclusive AI technologies in healthcare! If you are interested in investing in digital infrastructure in the Aged Care sector, please contact us here.

SOURCES | WHO ‘Ensuring artificial intelligence technologies for health benefit older people’ |

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