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Researchers Find Racial Bias in Hospital Algorithm

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A hospital admissions desk.

A new study found that black patients were less likely than white patients to get extra medical help despite being sicker, when an algorithm used by a large hospital chose who got the additional attention.


Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Partners HealthCare in Boston have found that a predictive hospital algorithm from UnitedHealth Group health services arm Optum was more likely to choose white patients to receive additional medical assistance than black patients.

The algorithm assigned healthier white patients the same ranking as black patients who had an additional chronic ailment, along with worse laboratory results and vital signs.

The researchers said this was the result of the algorithm’s use of cost to rank patients; black patients' healthcare spending was found to be lower than that of white patients with similar illnesses.

The researchers developed a substitute algorithm to boost the percentage of black patients identified for extra medical help by prioritizing patients based on their total chronic conditions, instead of on cost.

From The Wall Street Journal
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Abstracts Copyright © 2019 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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