Healthcare decision-making tools at risk

Sends letters to 30 hospital CEOs across the state requesting information regarding the use of commercial healthcare decision-making tools 

OAKLAND –California Attorney General Rob Bonta today sent letters to hospital CEOs across the state requesting information about how healthcare facilities and other providers are identifying and addressing racial and ethnic disparities in commercial decision-making tools. The request for information is the first step in a DOJ inquiry into whether commercial, healthcare algorithms – types of software used by healthcare providers to make decisions that affect access to health care for California patients – have discriminatory impacts based on race and ethnicity.

Healthcare algorithms are a fast-growing type of tool utilized in the healthcare industry to aid in various arenas, from administrative work to diagnostics. In some cases, algorithms may help providers determine a patient\’s medical needs, such as the need for referrals and specialty care. They may be based on simple decision-making trees or more complicated programs driven by artificial intelligence. These tools are not fully transparent to healthcare consumers, or even, in some circumstances, to healthcare providers themselves. The use of healthcare algorithms can help streamline processes and improve patient outcomes, but without appropriate review, training, and guidelines for usage, algorithms can have unintended negative consequences, especially for vulnerable patient groups.

Attorney General Bonta is committed to addressing disparities in health care and assuring compliance with state non-discrimination laws in hospitals and other healthcare settings. To that end, today’s letter to hospital CEOs seeks information to help determine whether the use of healthcare algorithms contributes to racially biased healthcare treatment and outcomes.

Original Press Release 

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