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US hospital algorithm discriminates against black patients, study finds

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6232 (Published 28 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6232
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

A computer algorithm used by many US hospitals to predict risk and allocate follow-up resources directs significantly more extra care to white than to black patients with the same disease burden, shows an analysis published in Science.1

The researchers did not name the particular algorithm but called it “one of the largest and most typical examples of a class of commercial risk-prediction tools that, by industry estimates, are applied to roughly 200 million people in the United States each year.”

The algorithm is undermined by its use of previous health expenditure as the metric by which to judge patients’ health needs, the study found. It has long been known that black patients’ health expenditure …

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