New Ways and Means Report Probes the Misuse of Race in Clinical Algorithms

Oct 14, 2021
Press Release
Committee Democrats underscore the significance of the problem and detail responses to the Chairman’s recent RFI on the issue

WASHINGTON, DC— Today, House Ways and Means Committee Democratic staff released a new report examining the misuse of race in clinical algorithms and exploring potential strategies to address inequities in clinical decision support tools (CDSTs) that lead to disparities in patient outcomes. In addition to describing the evolution and conflicted history of these tools that are intended to improve efficiency and quality of care, Fact versus Fiction: Clinical Decision Support Tools and the (Mis)Use of Race also includes analyses of stakeholders’ responses to a 2020 Request for Information (RFI) Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) issued to solicit input and recommendations on the matter. 

“Today’s report shines a stark light on the urgent need to eliminate this significant barrier preventing the equitable delivery of health care in the United States,” said Chairman Neal. “Unfortunately, these findings also reveal that while there’s a strong desire within the medical community and amongst stakeholders to improve current practices, divergent understandings of the appropriate use of race and ethnicity in CDSTs could make it difficult to achieve consensus on the path forward. One thing is for certain: the status quo is unacceptable. Racial correction in clinical algorithms contributes to worse outcomes for patients of color receiving treatment for a broad range of conditions, from cancer, to osteoporosis, to end-stage renal disease, to child birth. The Ways and Means Committee remains committed to working with stakeholders and advancing policies that prioritize justice and equity in our health care system.”

Read the full report, Fact versus Fiction: Clinical Decision Support Tools and the (Mis)Use of Race, HERE

Today’s report builds on Committee Democrats’ work on racial health equity. During the 116th Congress, the Committee on Ways and Means explored the root causes of health and economic disparities, inequitable outcomes in maternal mortality, climate change, gun violence, and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. A Committee Majority Staff report, Left Out: Barriers to Health Equity for Rural and Underserved Communities, highlighted ways that implicit bias and racism can undercut efforts to achieve health equity and racial justice. 

In the 117th Congress, the Committee continues to expand upon this work, as outlined in the Committee Majority Staff report, Something Must Change: Inequities in U.S. Policy and Society, and accompanying legislative framework, A Bold Vision for a Legislative Path Toward Health and Economic Equity

In March 2021, Chairman Richard E. Neal Announced the formation of the Racial Equity Initiative (REI), co-led by Reps. Terri A. Sewell (D-AL), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), and Steven Horsford (D-NV). The REI is focused on helping the Ways and Means Committee understand, reconcile, and remedy pervasive racial inequalities in health and economics through policymaking that supports more equitable outcomes and inclusive opportunities for all Americans. In July 2021, the REI co-chairs issued a set of equity-informed recommendations related to infrastructure and budget reconciliation priorities.