UK to review potential ethnic and gender bias in medical devices
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UK to review potential ethnic and gender bias in medical devices

22 Nov 2021 (Last Updated November 23rd, 2021 12:26)

The review seeks to identify systemic biases that exist in medical devices and make recommendations to address those issues.

UK to review potential ethnic and gender bias in medical devices
Some research has concluded that oximeters are less accurate in patients with darker skin. Credit: Mufid Majnun / Pixabay.

The UK Government has ordered a review into potential ethnic and gender bias in the design and use of medical devices.

The move follows concerns that some of the devices and related technologies generate erroneous outcomes for women and ethnic minorities.

According to a government statement, the independent review will assess devices, including oximeters, as well as their performance in different ethnic groups.

Some research has suggested that oximeters generate inaccurate results for darker-skinned patients in need of hospitalisation. It was found that pulse oximeters can overstate the amount of oxygen in the blood of people from ethnic minorities.

As an oximeter is an important device for monitoring the condition of, and deciding the treatment for, Covid-19 disease, the investigation will help in determining if this inherent bias prevented ethnic minority patients from receiving appropriate medical care amid the pandemic.

The review will also evaluate MRI scanners, which are yet to be recommended for use for pregnant or breastfeeding women. The review will explore ways to increase the scope of the equipment’s use.

The review will also cover all other medical devices currently on the UK market.

A government statement said: “Patients can be reassured that the NHS are experts in providing the best possible care with the devices currently available, and the review is intended to accelerate the process of improving the quality and availability of devices to diverse communities.”

In particular, the review will seek to identify systemic bias and disparities that exist in approved devices and make appropriate recommendations to address these issues.

The government will announce the name of the independent chairperson who will lead the review in due course.

Initial findings are expected by the end of January next year.