As imaging plays an increasingly vital role in medical diagnosis, radiologists require the aid of software-based solutions to keep pace with demand — a new report says the market for advanced machine-learning could be as high as $300 million by 2021.
“Radiology is evolving from a largely descriptive field to a more quantitative discipline. Intelligent software tools that combine quantitative imaging and clinical workflow features will not only enhance radiologist productivity, but also improve diagnostic accuracy,” said Simon Harris, Principal Analyst at Signify Research, and author of the market report “Machine Learning in Medical Imaging – 2017 Edition.”
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The move to computer-aided software comes at a critical time for the field. “Many radiologists are working at full capacity,” the report noted. “The situation will likely get worse, as imaging volumes are increasing at a faster rate than new radiologists entering the field.”
And staffing challenges are not the only issue. “Radiologists are under increasing pressure due to declining reimbursement rates and the transition from volume-based to value-based care delivery,” it added.
The push to automated image-analysis got a boost in June, 2016, when IBM announced the formation of a Watson Health medical imaging collaborative, with a number of leading health systems, academic medical centers, ambulatory radiology providers and imaging technology companies.
"There is strong potential for systems like Watson to help to make radiologists more productive, diagnoses more accurate, decisions more sound, and costs more manageable," said Nadim Michel Daher, a medical imaging and informatics analyst for Frost & Sullivan. "This is the type of collaborative initiative needed to produce the real-world evidence and examples to advance the field of medical imaging and address patient care needs across large and growing disease states."
Watson has already shown promising results when matched against human diagnosticians.
In December, 2016, at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, researchers from India reported
on findings that showed that Watson for Oncology (WFO) had shown “a high degree of concordance with the recommendations of a panel of oncologists in a double-blinded validation study."
WFO analyzed the cases and came up with three recommendations – standard treatment (REC); for consideration (FC); and not recommended (NREC).