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DAVOS, Switzerland (LifeSiteNews) — A European Union health commissioner has praised the “digital COVID certificate” as an example of how artificial intelligence (AI) and technology can be used.

Stella Kyriakides, the EU commissioner for health and food safety, made her remarks on Wednesday, January 17 during a WEF session in Davos, Switzerland, titled “Fixing Healthcare, Digitally.”

The panel began by focusing primarily on ways AI could be used to help detect diseases or read x-rays, before pivoting to the use of broader healthcare data sharing and retention. Panelists discussed how to overcome concerns about data privacy.

Kyriakides spoke after Mayo Clinic President Gianrico Farrugia said “globally we’re going to need governments to step up” to fix digital infrastructure problems.

“I am so glad that you raised that, because I think it really is one of the huge challenges, and almost an ethical challenge that we’re all facing,” Kyriakides said.

“We need to really address the fact that we cannot allow [the] potential we have in the digitalization of healthcare and AI lead to inequity,” she said. “And there has been, and we have seen this, in order to be able to harness all the potential of what we’re discussing, we need to also have the infrastructure.”

Commissioner Kyriakides said the EU is “working very strongly with member states” to “strengthen their health systems.” She said the efforts are not just within the EU, but “digitalization” is the “cornerstone of our global health strategy as well.”

While saying there is a “great deal” to be done, Kyriakides disclosed that she is optimistic due to the EU’s past work with digital COVID certificates.

“I just want to take one moment to see an example of what happened during the pandemic… It was not there before” but the “digital COVID certificate” soon became a “way of life” after just several months, she said.

The certificate verified the holder’s COVID vaccination and recovery status, or whether they had tested negative as unvaccinated international travelers. It has been used to exclude those who refuse the shots from various public settings and thus to push citizens of the 27-country bloc towards taking the jabs, as previously reported by LifeSiteNews.

Kyriakides observed that the certificate “allowed people to travel.”

“It opened up economies and societies, because we used digital healthcare in order to be able to allow this to happen,” she continued.

She then mentioned how the WHO had “taken over” the new technology and that “there are over 80 countries on board.”

“We need to think out of the box. We need to move forward. We need to be aware of the dangers, but let’s not lose sight of the potential,” she said, alluding to ethical and data privacy concerns.

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Kyriakides also called for broader international health data software

Earlier in the session, Kyriakides said “we can have all the potential AI offers us and have all the guardrails in place” to protect patient data, mentioning AI regulation in the EU.

She said the “pandemic has revolutionized the way we see digital care and healthcare and AI in so many different ways.”

In this context, she discussed a “proposal” to “build up the European health data space.”

The “European Health Union” would include this “project” using “personal data” to “join the health data systems across the member states” so citizens can have their “health records available” with them while traveling.

But there would be a “second part” that would allow officials to “pull” data out there for “research.”

“We need to really harness all this potential in order to reach benefits of citizens,” she said.

During the panel, she said citizens must trust the system and have the “choice” to stay in control of their data when it comes to their “personal use.”

She said the “anonymous” use of data for research is a different subject.

Kyriakides has previously worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) to, in that body’s words, “establish a global system that will help facilitate global mobility and protect citizens across the world from on-going and future health threats, including pandemics.”

“By using European best practices we contribute to digital health standards and interoperability globally – to the benefit of those most in need,” Kyriakides stated last summer, as reported by LifeSiteNews.

“It is also a powerful example of how alignment between the EU and the WHO can deliver better health for all, in the EU and across the world. As the directing and coordinating authority on international health work, there is no better partner than the WHO to advance the work we started at the EU and further develop global digital health solutions.” 

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