One December 17, PBS News Weekend ran a spot titled “How racial biases in medical algorithms lead to inequities in care.” In an interview with Dr. Jayne Morgan, president-elect of the Georgia-based biotech company Southeast Life Sciences, she was asked about “racial biases” in medical diagnostic algorithms. This included a reference to the glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), a blood test used to evaluate kidney function.
Dr. Morgan completely misunderstands the nature of the eGFR. She states that the use of the correction factor for black patients represents an example of racial bias. In fact, the 15% correction factor for black patients was derived empirically, and is necessary in the original equation in order to get an accurate value. This empirical observation was confirmed in several separate studies which always found the need for this calculation. Its abandonment was based on political ideology rather than a need to improve medical care. There is no evidence that patients were denied any life-saving therapies because of small differences in this calculation. It is well known by nephrologists that there is a great variance in any single determination of eGFR and a 10% to 15% difference would not have a clinical impact.
This is yet another example of misunderstanding and misinterpreting clinical information for the sake of affirming a nonexistent racial bias.
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