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Original Scholarship Health Equity
Cullen M. Lilley
Kamran M. Mirza
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Context: The health status of a population is greatly influenced by both biological processes and external factors. For years, minority and low socioeconomic patient populations have faced worse outcomes and poorer health in the United States. Experts have worked extensively to understand the issues and find solutions to alleviate this disproportionate burden of disease. As a result, there have been some improvements and successes, but wide gaps still exist. Diagnostic molecular genetic testing and so-called personalized medicine are just now being integrated into the current American health care system. The way in which these tests are integrated can either exacerbate or reduce health disparities.
Methods: We provide case scenarios—loosely based on real-life patients— so that nonexperts can see the impacts of complex policy decisions and unintentional biases in technology without needing to understand all the intricacies. We use data to explain these findings from an extensive literature search examining both peer-reviewed and gray literature.
Findings: Access to diagnostic molecular genetic testing is not equitable or sufficient, owing to at least five major factors: (1) cost to the patient, (2) location, (3) lack of provider buy-in, (4) data-set bias, and (5) lack of public trust.
Conclusions: Molecular genetic pathology can be made more equitable with the concerted efforts of multiple stakeholders. Confronting the five major factors identified here may help us usher in a new era of precision medicine without its discriminatory counterpart.
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