Artificial Intelligence in healthcare: MEPs debate with experts 

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The challenges of AI governance and the opportunities of AI applications in healthcare were discussed in the special committee on Artificial Intelligence in a digital age (AIDA) on Wednesday

The recording of the debate is available from this link.

"Europe is working on rules for Artificial Intelligence not to constrain, but so that we can unleash AI's full potential to benefit our societies and our citizens," said AIDA committee Chair Dragoș Tudorache (Renew Europe, RO). "Over the next decades, AI will help us predict, anticipate and manage future pandemics, discover new drugs and treatments and provide personalised medicine like never before."

"This is only the beginning. The AI-powered digital transformation in healthcare will enable never-before possible treatments, it will help us enhance the overall health of our citizens to unprecedented levels, and it will act as a catalyst for an overall improvement in how healthcare is delivered across Europe," the Chair said.

"The AI rules that we are about to set up need to both protect our rights and European values and, at the same time, enable European research and innovation in AI that brings these tremendous benefits to our citizens and societies. If we get it right, the EU will set the global tone on cutting edge healthcare and wellbeing. This is what is at stake," he added.

"We need a European health data space that will allow to improve our health systems and find new treatments and solutions. AI can play a very important role against pandemics, building resilience, reduce healthcare costs, improve diagnosis and the management of health records," said rapporteur of the AIDA final report, Axel Voss (EPP, DE).

"We are however facing challenges. The way data is being managed in the Member States is fragmented, we are missing a common legal framework for AI, and we do not have a general infrastructure for patients throughout the EU, nor do we have free flow of digital health services. We have to have in mind our concerns over of data protection, cyber security, and ethical standards."

"Big tech companies are already very successful, so we will have to do a lot in a short time. We need to move forward if we want to be a competitor in this digital health system," he added.

The event included two panels. The first focused on digital governance with the participation of the Minister of Digital Governance of Greece, Kyriakos Pierrakakis, as well as the Head of Unit Public Health Functions, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Vicky Lefevre and Deputy Director General of DG-SANTE, Claire Bury. The first panel insisted on the need to harmonise governing rules for data sharing and for AI processing across the EU as well as on the need to integrate ethical rules at a very early stage in the development of AI applications (ethics by design).

The second panel featured the participation of representatives of the industry, civil society and academia and focused on uses of AI in the health sector and on current challenges and opportunities. Invited experts all pointed out the low level of private investment in the EU and the challenges faced by European entrepreneurs to scale-up their operation. They made the case for a genuine AI European investment strategy positioned adequately between US and Chinese ones relying on a mix a public and private investments. They also cited the need for an adequate supporting ICT infrastructure, attracting and retaining skills and ensuring consumer trust with legislation including consumer protection mechanisms.