The racial biases in the United States against people of color have often alarmed the watchdogs about the discriminatory practices within the US social sphere.
The health sector is facing the same misery, where the algorithms used for the healthcare management of millions of Americans are systematically orchestrated to favor white skins.
Optum, one such system being used by thousands of hospitals across the US, has pre-coded biases that put the Black people’s health at risk.
Optum: A HealthCare Algorithm is Endangering Black Lives
Historical racism is endangering the Black community as all the data from the past was gathered under racist regimes.
So, technically, no historical numbers can be used to construct algorithms for future use, which will put Blacks at the disadvantaged end.
These are the basic etiquettes of the historical approach of social research. The researchers need to find the social conditions existing in the past to make sense of the data recorded at that time, which the algorithm manufacturers seem to ignore.
Optum, a health-based algorithm, is a classic example of the persisting racism in the US healthcare sector.
As a matter of fact, hospitals predict the amount of care a patient needs through their algorithms. This makes these algorithms the absolute powerful entity, as they are entrusted with determining the future of the patients.
Optum’s algorithm is designed by ignoring the historical racial basis against Blacks. The system undermines the care which Blacks need as compared to their white counterparts.
The algorithms, in general, are driven by thousands of factors, and one of these factors of the system in discussion is the amount of money that is being spent on the patients.
Black people, in general, have less access to the hospitals, as per the data, and do not have an equivalent amount of money as whites have to spend on healthcare.
Additionally, people of color are also more vulnerable to job loss, not to mention that most of them are unable to secure good jobs in the first place.
As they have less average income compared to white people, they will definitely spend much less on the healthcare sector.
But the algorithm evinces that they were less sick; that’s why they spend less money on healthcare, which is a flawed and biased approach.
Scanning History Through Neutral Lenses: The Need of the Hour
There are countless factors that need to be considered while designing a fair algorithm in the healthcare sector.
While creating a utopian system may remain a pipe dream, fixing the evidence should not be delayed at all.
All the historical biases need to be considered while fixing the system. For instance,
- How did slavery impact Black citizens‘ mental and physical health?
- How did the negation of the right to vote take a health toll on them?
- How are they currently being disenfranchised across the United States, and what is its price in terms of poor health?
- How are Black people unequally concentrated in less privileged neighborhoods, and what could be the consequences on their health spending?
These are just some of the factors that can impact Black people’s health and their expenses. Ideally, all such factors must be included in any algorithm to avert technological bias.
This is classified as modern-day racism, as it is not limited to the healthcare sector only.
Be it scrutinizing the resumes based on the African names or putting them in prisons for slavery acial recognition apps, this sort of business is hindering the overall progress of the Black community.
This is an outright reversal of the gains during the civil rights movement and needs immediate attention from the legislature. All algorithm selling companies need to be regulated so that they are bound not to misguide their customers.
A bill across the same lines should explicitly mention all the pre-existing social biases against Blacks and their problems in history to make sure that the companies creating algorithms are actually enforced to incorporate those factors.
Companies that fail to comply must be punished with heavy fines so that racism can be pulled out from the grassroots level.
This long-existing racial bias in the healthcare sector could also be the reason behind higher death rates in Black people compared to white.
Access to quality healthcare facilities is the immediate need of the hour for the Black individuals so that they can live a peaceful life without any systematic restrictions.
The healthcare departments should also take notice of these discrepancies and fix these engineered algorithms at their earliest possible convenience. Otherwise, all the gains of the past times would become questionable.