The development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) for healthcare applications – including radiology – took a major step forward in the past year. Moreover, there’s no sign of AI advancement slowing down in 2018.
With AI uses becoming more commonplace in radiology, the concern of many radiologists and healthcare professionals is that machines will one day make their jobs obsolete. It’s hardly an overreaction when you consider that AI is expected to interpret clinical images as effectively as the most experienced, competent radiologists.
Many experts, however, believe that AI won’t ultimately replace radiologists, but help them do their jobs more effectively. Let’s take a closer look.
What is AI?
Artificial intelligence is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines and computer programs. In essence, AI involves using computers to understand human intelligence. In the field of radiology, machines using AI generate final reports that take into account a patient’s previous imaging exams as well as his or her’s complete medical history.
Why AI Has a Role in Radiology’s Future
A big problem facing healthcare professionals today is the vast amount of patient information which faces them daily. The amount of data is expected to rise shortly, and beyond, making the task of dealing with a mountain of information a near-insurmountable task for physicians and clinicians.
AI’s role – at least for the near future – will focus on finding the key, essential data needed for patient care and present it to physicians in a concise, easy-to-interpret manner. AI can find this information immediately from the image and the patient’s history.
What Does AI Mean for Radiologists?
There’s quite a debate regarding AI and whether it one day replaces radiologists. The consensus, however, is that AI will augment the role of healthcare professionals rather than replacing them. In other words, radiologists won’t be replaced by machines.
Seth Berkowitz, MD, an interventional radiologist working in Boston, works with a startup company that has developed technology which examines CAT Scan (CT) images of the head. The technology’s algorithm works at a pace that unmatched by any human. Berkowitz, however, said that the startup’s aim isn’t to “replace radiologists” but to improve outcomes by doing things in a way that radiologists can’t.
For Berkowitz, AI will enhance the radiologist’s role by proving that he or she does more than “just translating pixels in words in radiology reports.”
Meanwhile, others say that collaboration between radiologists and AI creates an ideal environment in which the patient benefits. And many others agree that young radiologists who embrace AI have a more secure future than those who don’t.
As Phelps Kelley, a fourth-year radiology fellow put it, radiologists who “own AI” will benefit from it without being replaced by it.