3 highly used clinical algorithms that contain racial bias

A coalition, created by New York City, has identified three highly used healthcare algorithms that contain racial bias, Politico reported Nov. 28. 

The Coalition to End Racism aims to spread awareness about algorithms that amplify bias and exacerbate care disparities. In a recent report, the coalition highlighted three highly used algorithms that contain racial biases:

  • A calculation for measuring kidney function was found to presume that Black individuals have increased muscle mass relative to others, leading to delays in access to nephrology specialists and evaluation for kidney transplantation.

  • A formula for assessing lung health was found to use 19th-century research that suggests Black people have lower lung capacity than white people.

  • A scoring index for determining whether a person can have a vaginal birth after a cesarean section had given Black and Hispanic patients a 5 to 15 percent lower success rate.

The report said that at least 11 health systems have committed to ending the use of at least one of the three algorithms.

Michelle Morse, MD, inaugural chief medical officer of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene who also leads the coalition, said the organization's goal is to educate providers on the biases and update their systems "so that providers are no longer using the racist version of the algorithm, but are using a new version that will help us actually end racial inequities instead of solidifying them and normalizing them."

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