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Posted: 30th May 2024

RCVS roundtable considers artificial intelligence regulation
The event included group discussions on the benefits and dangers of AI in the veterinary sector.
Event in London heard from a range of experts.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has taken its first steps towards possibly regulating the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the veterinary sector with a roundtable on the topic.

The event, which took place at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, London, on Monday, 20 May 2024, featured contributions from a range of experts across the veterinary, technology, and legal sectors.

With AI technology progressing quickly and being more widely used, the college is keen to make sure that any potential benefits are maximised while preventing any potential for harm to animal health and welfare and public health.

Delegates heard from speakers including P-J Noble, a senior lecturer in Small Animal Science at the University of Liverpool, who talked about the use of AI and data in the university’s Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network, and Joanne Conway, a Deloitte partner in AI and digital regulation, who explained the current global regulatory climate for AI.

The event also saw group discussions on what the veterinary sector might look like if AI worked perfectly and what could go wrong if, in a ‘doom’ scenario, it did not. There were also discussions of practical questions over AI use in a veterinary context and how the technology could be regulated.

A range of RCVS committees will now consider the ideas shared during the event, with a formal report on the roundtable due to be published later in the year.

Lizzie Lockett, CEO of RCVS, said: “This was a really positive and exciting event that involved a heady mix of trepidation over the risks and implications of AI now and into the future, and optimism over the beneficial impact it could have for education, diagnosis, treatment and patient outcomes.

“The discussions have certainly given us at the college a lot of food for thought on how we can put in place guardrails and guidelines on the appropriate use of AI in the veterinary sector.”

With AI technology developing so quickly, the college is keen to make sure that any regulations that are put in place do not quickly become obsolete or irrelevant.

Ms Lockett added: “This is an area of technology that is evolving so rapidly that it would not be effective for us to put in place specific guidance for the use of AI tools, but instead we will be looking at how we can regulate the use of AI in the round and ensure our principles are sufficiently future-proofed to keep up with the pace of change.

“Any regulation will start with first principles, such as transparency and honesty around the use of AI in veterinary practice, the minimisation of potential risks, and the continuing importance of professional accountability for decision-making, even where such decisions may have been heavily influenced by the use of AI tools and AI-generated data.”

Image © Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

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