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By crunching data on patients, software developers promise to help U.S. hospitals and insurers accomplish a crucial task: identifying those most in need of stepped-up care to manage their chronic illnesses.

But a STAT investigation found that these software systems are infusing racism into health care by systematically overlooking obstacles faced by people of color. Here are five takeaways:


Using cost as a proxy for health need results in unintentional redlining.

The most widely used software products predict how much patients’ care will cost, which hospitals use as an indicator of health status to help figure out who might benefit from additional doctor visits or other preventive care. But using cost as a filter infuses racial bias into decision-making because people of color tend to receive less medical treatment than white patients with similar illnesses. This is due to inequities in access to care and insurance coverage, as well as historic discrimination.

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