Colin Mitchell, Corrette Ploem

Mitchell and Ploem, J Clin Transl Res 2017; 3(S3): 5

Published online: August 18, 2018


Systems based on artificial intelligence and machine learning that facilitate decision making in health care are promising new tools in the era of ‘personalized’ or ‘precision’ medicine. As the volume of patient data and scientific evidence grows, these computerised decision support systems (DSS) have great potential to help healthcare professionals improve diagnosis and care for individual patients. However, the implementation of these tools in clinical care raises some foreseeable legal challenges for healthcare providers and DSS-suppliers in Europe: How does the use of complex and novel DSS relate to professional standards to provide a reasonable standard of care? What should be done in terms of testing before DSS can be used in regular practice? What are the potential liabilities of health care providers and DSS companies if a DSS fails to function well? How do legal requirements for the protection of patient data and general privacy rights apply to likely DSS scenarios? In this article, we provide an overview of the current law and its general implications for the use of DSS, from a European perspective. We conclude that healthcare providers and DSS-suppliers will have the best chance of meeting legal challenges if: they are first tested in translational research with the patients' explicit, informed consent; DSS-suppliers and healthcare providers are able to clarify and agree on their individual legal responsibilities, and; patients are properly informed about privacy risks and able to decide themselves whether their data can be used for other purposes, or are stored and processed outside the EU. DSS developers and healthcare providers will need to work together closely to ensure compliance with national and European regulations and standards required for reasonable and safe patient care. 

Relevance to patients: Advanced digital decision support systems have the potential to improve patient diagnosis and care. In this article we discuss key legal issues to support translational research using DSS and ensure that they meet the high standards for protection of patient safety and privacy in Europe.


Author affiliation

1. Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands 2. Department of Public Health, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

*Corresponding author

Corrette Ploem

Department of Public Health, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands


Handling editor:

Michal Heger
Department of Experimental Surgery, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands


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