Sahar Takshi


Systemic discrimination in healthcare plagues marginalized groups. Physicians incorrectly view people of color as having high pain tolerance, leading to undertreatment. Women with disabilities are often undiagnosed because their symptoms are dismissed. Low-income patients have less access to appropriate treatment. These patterns, and others, reflect long-standing disparities that have become engrained in U.S. health systems.

As the healthcare industry adopts artificial intelligence and algorithminformed (AI) tools, it is vital that regulators address healthcare discrimination. AI tools are increasingly used to make both clinical and administrative decisions by hospitals, physicians, and insurers—yet there is no framework that specifically places nondiscrimination obligations on AI users. The Food & Drug Administration has limited authority to regulate AI and has not sought to incorporate anti-discrimination principles in its guidance. Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act has not been used to enforce nondiscrimination in healthcare AI and is under-utilized by the Office of Civil Rights. State level protections by medical licensing boards or malpractice liability are similarly untested and have not yet extended nondiscrimination obligations to AI.

This Article discusses the role of each legal obligation on healthcare AI and the ways in which each system can improve to address discrimination. It highlights the ways in which industries can self-regulate to set nondiscrimination standards and concludes by recommending standards and creating a super-regulator to address disparate impact by AI. As the world moves towards automation, it is imperative that ongoing concerns about systemic discrimination are removed to prevent further marginalization in healthcare.