Friday, February 3, 2023
HomeTechnologyAllegations of medical racism against Apple have doctors reeling

Allegations of medical racism against Apple have doctors reeling

Apple Watches and similar devices are coming under closer scrutiny after a class action lawsuit alleges that some of their products contain racial prejudice.

With the advent of consumer-facing health technology gaining popularity, WPTV spoke to a doctor about why some of the information gathered by these wearables might be misleading.

When you’re on the go, some people want accessories that can keep up.

For Justin Tagle, it’s his Apple Watch.

“I think I got it during COVID in 2020,” Tagle said, “as well because the gyms were closed, so I wanted a way to track my workouts at home.”

Justin Tagle is among the thousands of people wearing technology to keep tabs on their health.

Local doctors are warning against over-reliance on the technology after a study into blood oxygen technology led to a class-action lawsuit against Apple alleging racial bias.

“They noticed that these patients had darker skin tones regardless of race,” said pulmonologist Dr. Luis Pena Hernandez. “I think they looked at Asian demographics and Hispanics and African Americans who have higher pulse oximeter readings.”

The blood oxygen tool is an important feature for users like Tagle.

“I spent about a month in Peru,” he said, “and I used it firstly to make sure my medication was working and secondly to make sure I was taking enough time to get my blood oxygen levels back up when I make an effort. “

dr  Luis Pena-Hernandez shares his thoughts on how the public should process medical data...
dr Luis Pena-Hernandez shares his thoughts on how the public should process the medical data that wearable technology collects.

The problems didn’t surprise him, and he said it sheds light on a deeper problem.

“I mean, medical racism is one thing, so medical devices generally work better on lighter skin from what I’ve read,” Tagle said.

Pena-Hernandez said those who are obese or have tattoos can see similar discrepancies in their blood oxygen readings from pulse oximeters.

Apple devices are warning users that the blood oxygen results on their smartwatches are not intended for medical use.

“It’s an important disclaimer,” Pena-Hernandez said. “This technology is intended to be used as a general reference and not necessarily validated for medical use.”

While we await further research and improvements in the technology, Tagle said it’s time to have serious talks.

“It’s unfortunate that racial prejudice exists in medicine, and when I found out about it, I realized we needed to talk more about it,” Tagle said.

2023 Scripps content only


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