An algorithm widely used in US hospitals to allocate health care to patients has been systematically discriminating against black people, a sweeping analysis has found. The study, published in Science on 24 October1, concluded that the algorithm was less likely to refer black people than white people who were equally sick to programmes that aim to improve care for patients with complex medical needs.
. Taken together, the data showed that the care provided to black people cost an average of US$1,800 less per year than the care given to a white person with the same number of chronic health problems. The scientists speculate that this reduced access to care is due to the effects of systemic racism, ranging from distrust of the health-care system to direct racial discrimination by health-care providers.
And because the algorithm assigned people to high-risk categories on the basis of costs, those biases were passed on in its results: black people had to be sicker than white people before being referred for additional help.
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