Collaborating Authors

Racial bias in a medical algorithm favors white patients over sicker black patients


A widely used algorithm that predicts which patients will benefit from extra medical care dramatically underestimates the health needs of the sickest black patients, amplifying long-standing racial disparities in medicine, researchers have found. The problem was caught in an algorithm sold by a leading health services company, called Optum, to guide health care decision-making for millions of people. But the same issue almost certainly exists in other tools used by other private companies, nonprofit health systems and government agencies to manage the health care of about 200 million people in the United States each year, the scientists reported in the journal Science . Correcting the bias would more than double the number of black patients flagged as at risk of complicated medical needs within the health system the researchers studied, and they are already working with Optum on a fix. When the company replicated the analysis on a national data set of 3.7 million patients, they found that black patients who were ranked by the algorithm as equally as in need of extra care as white patients were much sicker: They collectively suffered from 48,772 additional chronic diseases.

A Year After Maria, Puerto Rican Kidney Patients Fear Death

U.S. News

After the hurricane hit, authorities began flying the 15 kidney patients in Vieques to the Puerto Rican mainland. The storm had ruined the only dialysis center on this tiny island; without treatment, the patients would die.

Tango helps cancer patients

FOX News

While many people turn to dancing to stay fit and lose weight, a new study suggests swaying to the beat may also offer therapeutic benefits. Researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center have taken the results a step further by teaching the tango to cancer patients. Tim Hickey, a cancer survivor who suffered nerve damage in his legs and feet as a result of chemotherapy for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, could hardly walk before being introduced to the tango. "The only thing I could feel in my feet was the balls," Hickey told "I couldn't feel the toes, couldn't feel the heels."

Yemen's cancer patients suffer as clinics are closing

Al Jazeera

The World Health Organization says 35,000 Yemenis have cancer, and 11,000 are diagnosed every year. But increasingly, cancer clinics have been closing, leaving patients without access to treatment and care. Already facing travel in dangerous areas, long wait times for care, and limits on crucial food and medical supplies imposed by the Saudi-Emirati coalition, cancer patients in Hodeidah now have no idea if the last clinic in the area will still exist for their next treatment.

Dissecting racial bias in an algorithm used to manage the health of populations


The U.S. health care system uses commercial algorithms to guide health decisions. Obermeyer et al. find evidence of racial bias in one widely used algorithm, such that Black patients assigned the same level of risk by the algorithm are sicker than White patients (see the Perspective by Benjamin). The authors estimated that this racial bias reduces the number of Black patients identified for extra care by more than half. Bias occurs because the algorithm uses health costs as a proxy for health needs. Less money is spent on Black patients who have the same level of need, and the algorithm thus falsely concludes that Black patients are healthier than equally sick White patients.