February 24, 2021

At Warren, Booker, Wyden, and Lee, Request, Federal Research Agency Will Review the Use of Race-Based Algorithms in Medical Practice

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), released the following statement regarding the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) approving their request to review the use of race-based clinical algorithms in standard medical practices:

"The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on communities of color have laid bare that racism is a public health crisis. We are glad that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has approved our request to review the use of race-based algorithms to help ensure that medicine and public health organizations take an anti-racist approach to medical care," said the lawmakers. 

In September 2020, the lawmakers sent a letter to AHRQ raising concerns about the use of race and ethnicity in clinical algorithms. In order to better understand these algorithms and their current effects on medical care, the lawmakers requested a review of their use by AHRQ.

In response to the lawmakers' concerns in the letter, AHRQ has announced a public Request for Input (RFI) as it conducts a review of these algorithms. The RFI titled the Use of Clinical Algorithms That Have the Potential To Introduce Racial/Ethnic Bias Into Healthcare Delivery, will seek information from: healthcare providers, laboratorians, researchers, clinical decision support developers, clinical professional societies or other groups, healthcare delivery organizations, device developers, and patients whose healthcare and healthcare decisions may be informed by clinical algorithms.

This review will  improve the understanding of: "which algorithms are currently used in different clinical settings; the type and extent of their validation; their potential for bias with impact on access, quality, and outcomes of care; awareness among clinicians of these issues; and strategies for developing and testing clinical algorithms to assure that they are free of bias in order to inform the scope of a future evidence review." 

Last September, Senator Warren, Representative Barbara Lee, and Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), introduced the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act which would help expand research and investment into the public health impacts of structural racism and require the federal government to begin actively developing anti-racist health policy.