Advances in the adoption of data-driven technologies in the health sector are raising new social, legal and ethical questions around the protection of personal information, equitable access to health care and patient safety, among others. AI is enabling significant progress in healthcare, public health research, and drug development. In addition, AI has the potential to address issues around the broader social determinants of health by increasing access to health services, wellness and lifestyle management, and enabling efficient health systems management.
However, these advances also raise social, legal and ethical questions around the protection of personal information, equitable access to health care and patient safety, among others. It is therefore critical that South Africa develops and implements appropriate regulatory frameworks around the responsible use and governance of data and AI within the health sector. There is a substantial body of research and several global, multilateral and national policy frameworks that engage with critical policy issues in this field. In South Africa, the nature of these issues is complicated by high levels of poverty, a large disease burden and highly unequal resourcing and access to health services. This Topical Guide reviews the current policy and research environment, with a view to adopting a more inclusive, human rights-based approach to the use of AI and data for improving health outcomes.
Vedantha Singh is a researcher and PhD student based at the University of Cape Town. The major focus of her research is understanding the impact of AI on healthcare, specifically how this relates to agency and organisational change. Trained in biomedical sciences, she has developed and supported leading research programs tackling HIV, cancer and TB.