Elvira holding up cue cards in front of a lake on Nottingham Jubilee campus

Taking an ethical approach to the healthcare data challenge

2018 Symposium
19 June 2018

All around us, technology is expanding exponentially. Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already common, and this technology can serve a growing role in meeting people’s healthcare needs, including by tackling mental health problems.

While there are considerable benefits to the use of AI in healthcare – including for dealing with mental health issues, which create a significant healthcare burden for a large portion of the population – use of these new innovations throw up ethical, social and political challenges.

Delegates at the Mental Health and Technology Theme workshop during the Symposium divided into smaller groups and took a hands-on approach with decks of cards to consider the ethical dimensions of involving technology in healthcare.

The cards were designed by the UnBias team from Horizon at the University of Nottingham to raise awareness about algorithm mediated systems and the factors, rights, values and data types to consider when interacting with intelligent systems.

Dr Elvira Perez Vallejos, Associate Professor of Digital Technology and Mental Health, part of our Mental Health and Technology theme, hosted the workshop sessions at the BRC Symposium on 19 June 2018.
She said: “AI and ethics have to travel together in this journey of innovation. If we leave ethics as a secondary thought, we may create systems that are not accountable, or systems that may be biased…

“Machines and AI bring so many opportunities to healthcare, especially when we try to analyse lots of data from patients. Machines are able to analyse and provide outcomes (from data) in a way that a human brain perhaps cannot.”

Over the last year, the BRC Mental Health and Technology theme has worked very closely with its PPI (Patient and Public Involvement) group to design and develop new research programmes.

Current research has also engaged in “very innovative pieces of technology to support (patients with) phobias, support anxiety and mood disorders,” said Dr Perez.

“The BRC is at the heart of these advances and we are advising and evaluating (in these areas). My role is to consider the ethical implications of that technology for human relationships; for the understanding of who we are and the relationship we want to have with machines.”