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Britain launches review of medical device biases

Britain’s Health Secretary announced on Sunday that he had launched a review of racial and gender bias in medical devices, triggered by reports that blood oxygen monitoring devices work less well on people with darker skin.

Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC that he believes it is possible that some people may have died during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of these discrepancies and may have contributed to the overall higher death rates among blacks and South Asians in the Kingdom -United.

“The possibility that a bias – even unintentionally – could lead to a worse health outcome is totally unacceptable,” Javid wrote in the Sunday opening hours.

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine In late 2020, it was discovered that pulse oximeters, which typically calculate the amount of oxygen in the blood by sending light through the fingertip, are more likely to lack low oxygen levels. in black patients than in white patients. The discovery also caught the attention of U.S. lawmakers, who asked the Food and Drug Administration to examine the devices. The agency warned of its limits in February.

The review will examine bias in all medical devices, not just pulse oximeters, and assess them for gender bias, as well as racial bias. Javid didn’t specifically name the medical algorithms, but these could potentially be included as they are often regulated as medical devices in the US and UK. In recent years, expert analysis of algorithms has shown that they are often constructed to reproduce racial prejudices.

Javid said he has discussed the matter with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and hopes to work with the United States and other countries on international standards for medical devices.

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