Review launched into the health impact of potential bias in medical devices

An independent review is set to launch to explore the impact of potential bias in the design and use of medical devices.

In a wide-reaching review, a panel aim to explore where there could be bias in the way medical devices and technologies are designed and used that could mean a patient’s diagnosis and treatment is affected by their gender or ethnic background.

The independent review panel will look at devices such as oximeters – used to measure oxygen levels – to identify potential discrepancies in how they work for different ethnic groups. As part of this, the review will consider whether existing regulations mean there is a systemic bias inherent in medical devices.

In the Government press announcement it highlighted an example: “Some research has concluded darker skinned patients who might need to be hospitalised are at greater risk of inaccurate results from oximeters due to a tendency for this group to present higher levels of oxygen in their blood.

“Existing research on this has highlighted the need for this issue to be further examined, as these devices are critical for monitoring and deciding if treatment is needed for diseases such as COVID-19, where every minute counts and accurate data is vital.”

The aims of the programme include to progress research on identifying systematic bias, make recommendation to tackle any issues, and to focus on future technologies such as algorithmic based data and artificial intelligence tools.

The review panel will explore all devices, and aim to complete and share their findings by January 2022.