Race, Ethnicity, and Ancestry in Clinical Pathways: A Framework for Evaluation

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Clinical algorithms, or "pathways," promote the delivery of medical care that is consistent and equitable. Race, ethnicity, and/or ancestry terms are sometimes included in these types of guidelines, but it is unclear if this is appropriate for clinical decision-making. At our institution, we developed and applied a structured framework to determine whether race, ethnicity, or ancestry terms identified in our clinical pathways library should be retained, modified, or removed. First, we reviewed all text and associated reference documents for 132 institutionally-developed clinical pathways and identified 8 pathways that included race, ethnicity, or ancestry terms. Five pathways had clear evidence or a change in institutional policy that supported removal of the term. Multispecialty teams conducted additional in-depth evaluation of the 3 remaining pathways (Acute Viral Illness, Hyperbilirubinemia, and Weight Management) by applying the framework. In total, based on these reviews, race, ethnicity, or ancestry terms were removed (n = 6) or modified (n = 2) in all 8 pathways. Application of the framework established several recommended practices, including: (1) define race, ethnicity, and ancestry rigorously; (2) assess the most likely mechanisms underlying epidemiologic associations; (3) consider whether inclusion of the term is likely to mitigate or exacerbate existing inequities; and (4) exercise caution when applying population-level data to individual patient encounters. This process and framework may be useful to other institutional programs and national organizations in evaluating the inclusion of race, ethnicity, and ancestry in clinical guidelines.