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Black Men Were Likely Underdiagnosed with Lung Problems Due to Bias in Software

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An 8-year-old student blows into a spirometer held by a nurse outside an elementary school in Bel Nor, MO.

Racial bias built into a common medical test for lung function is likely leading to fewer Black patients getting care for breathing problems, researchers said.

Credit: Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP

A study published last week suggests built-in software bias may be responsible for the underdiagnosis of lung problems among Black men

The researchers analyzed the medical histories of more than 2,700 Black men and 5,700 white men evaluated by University of Pennsylvania Health System doctors between 2010 and 2020.

They focused on spirometry and lung volume tests to evaluate how many were determined to have breathing difficulties using a race-based algorithm, and found nearly 400 more Black male patients might have been diagnosed with breathing problems using a new algorithm.

Massachusetts General Hospital's Darshali Vyas said race-adjusting algorithms elevate the diagnostic threshold for Black patients, which may make them less likely to initiate certain medications or to receive referrals for medical procedures or lung transplants.

From Associated Press
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Abstracts Copyright © 2023 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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