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Guiding Principles Help Healthcare Community Address Potential Bias Resulting From Algorithms

The use of algorithms is expanding in many realms of healthcare, from diagnostics and treatments to payer systems and business processes. Every sector of the healthcare system is using these technologies to try to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.

A paper published in JAMA Network Open addresses the use of healthcare algorithms and provides the healthcare community with guiding principles to avoid repeating errors that have tainted the use of algorithms in other sectors. This work was conducted by a technical expert panel that included researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The panel developed a conceptual framework to apply the following guiding principles across an algorithm’s life cycle to address the problems of structural racism and discrimination, centering on healthcare equity for patients and communities as the overarching goal:

  1. Promote health and healthcare equity during all healthcare algorithm life cycle phases.
  2. Ensure healthcare algorithms and their use are transparent and explainable.
  3. Authentically engage patients and communities during all healthcare algorithm life cycle phases and earn trustworthiness.
  4. Explicitly identify healthcare algorithmic fairness issues and tradeoffs.
  5. Establish accountability for equity and fairness in outcomes from healthcare algorithms.

These guiding principles were developed following a 2-day meeting in March 2023 of a diverse panel of experts convened by AHRQ and the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in partnership with the HHS Office of Minority Health and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, to review evidence, hear from stakeholders, and receive community feedback. The meeting was informed by an evidence review from the AHRQ Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) Program, which examined the evidence on algorithms and racial and ethnic bias in healthcare and approaches to mitigate such bias. More information on AHRQ’s work to explore the current use of algorithms in healthcare, their impact on racial/ethnic disparities in care, and approaches to identify and mitigate existing biases may be found on AHRQ’s website.

The paper, Guiding Principles to Address the Impact of Algorithm Bias on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health and Health Care, may be found in JAMA Network Open and is available here

Page last reviewed December 2023
Page originally created December 2023

Internet Citation: Guiding Principles Help Healthcare Community Address Potential Bias Resulting From Algorithms. Content last reviewed December 2023. Effective Health Care Program, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

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