Doctors benefit from AI help, but gaps in diagnosing skin diseases on darker skin persist


When it comes to AI, people often talk about discrimination. And rightly so, because most models have built-in biases. But humans also have conscious and unconscious biases and discriminate.

According to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), doctors are less likely to diagnose skin diseases in people with darker skin.

The study found that dermatologists correctly categorized only 34 percent of diseases in images of darker skin, compared to about 38 percent in images of lighter skin.

General practitioners were less accurate overall but showed a similar decrease in diagnostic accuracy with darker skin.



The study involved more than 1,000 dermatologists and primary care physicians recruited through the social networking site Sermo for Doctors.

Participants were shown 364 images from dermatology textbooks and other sources showing 46 skin diseases on different skin tones.

Study participants were asked to indicate their top three predictions for the possible disease of each image and whether they would refer the patient for a biopsy.

AI greatly improved diagnostic accuracy, but exacerbated the gap between lighter and darker skin tones for generalists.

Both dermatologists and general practitioners benefited from AI assistance. Dermatologists improved their accuracy up to 60 percent and general practitioners up to 47 percent.


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