Force Sensing Interventional Radiology Device; A Care Ethics Analysis of Optum's Clinical Algorithm

DeCleene, Sydney, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Angle, John, MD-RADL Angio/Interv UPG-MD-RADL Angio/Interv, University of Virginia
Laugelli, Benjamin, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

My STS and technical projects are related mainly through their exploration of biomedical inventions, as well as the potential for bias in these inventions. Bias in this context refers to the inability of a technological development to produce the same results across people from various backgrounds when the results are expected to be the same. My technical project explores the development of a new biomedical device, while focusing on how to ensure the device can give accurate readings in a variety of situations and is not biased to one situation. My STS project instead focuses on a biomedical algorithm and discusses the biases present. Therefore, while these projects discuss different types of technological developments, they both focus on biomedical developments and on the bias these developments can have.
My technical project discusses the development of a novel force sensing device for use in interventional radiology procedures. The purpose of this device is to reduce patient injury due to operator inexperience by providing feedback to the operator on how much force they are applying. With this information, operators can better understand when they are applying dangerous force levels on a vessel wall and adjust their technique accordingly. Hopefully, this would prevent vessel ruptures. In order to solve this problem, my team developed a small, flexible thru-mode force sensing resistor to place on the exterior of interventional radiology devices. The device placement was chosen to avoid bias. Depending on operator hand size and particular hand movements, sensing the force outside of the body could lead to inaccurate force readings. Therefore, we chose to place the force sensor on a device instead of on the operator.
My STS research focuses on a different biomedical invention, with a focus on bias. I examined a clinical algorithm that was biased against Black patients due to the metrics used in the algorithm. I used a care ethics analysis to examine the morality of the engineers involved in designing this clinical algorithm. I ultimately claim that care ethics finds the engineers acted unethically based on the bias they encoded into their algorithm. This analysis will help to demonstrate that it is important to hold engineers accountable for bias in their designs, and that engineering with awareness and empathy is necessary.
By working on these projects simultaneously, I gained a better understanding of the relationship between technology and bias associated with it. My technical project was completed with awareness of areas for potential bias and was informed by the research done for my STS report. My STS report benefited from my technical report because I was able to understand the context of creating a medical device or new biomedical technology, and how bias may not be immediately considered when determining a solution. This led me to understand the severity of bias in biomedical inventions. By working on these projects together, my understanding of both projects and the relationship between technology and society was deepened.

BS (Bachelor of Science)

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Technical Advisor: John Angle
STS Advisor: Benjamin Laugelli
Technical Team Members: Sruthi Gopinathan, Gigi Grillo

Issued Date: