Will AI ultimately replace or assist radiologists?

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | November 21, 2022
Artificial Intelligence X-Ray
From the November 2022 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

He adds that it’s important that students understand that current AI tools are “single-minded one-trick ponies” that only detect one or two abnormalities, versus a myriad of potential causes to explain a patient’s condition, let alone a host of potentially important but unsuspected incidental findings.

“In essence, AI now and in the foreseeable future is an assist device helping radiologists perform their tasks. We in radiology already know this. But it is incumbent on us to share this with medical students and disabuse them of misconceptions. When medical students rotate through a radiology elective they are often surprised by the breadth and scope of our jobs,” said Atalay.

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Wu says that medical associations are beginning to do this by developing educational programs for students and current physicians and radiology leaders about what they can expect and need to know about AI and its use in their work. His own institution is creating structured training
programs for educating students and clinical trainees, from the high school level
to graduate school.

“We need to make them think with a right attitude toward AI, ‘Ok. I understand what AI is, and I know what it does and how I can work with it. It will not usurp my career. In fact, this shows that radiology might be a more exciting career because of the strong component of AI in radiology,’” he said.

Interpreting the value of AI
Accelerating the adoption of AI in radiology and other medical specialties is a slow process and will take time. Refinements and the development of more sophisticated models, capable of performing multiple tasks and collecting more information will facilitate greater interest from radiologists by showing them the value it brings to their jobs and workflow.

Erickson says that as more advanced developments take shape, he is confident that radiologists will come to view AI as an assistant, and not a replacement. “There’s so much more information in the images than what we can extract today, but I think as long as we remain engaged in how the AI tools are developed and deployed, that we’re going to be at the center of that and not pushed aside.”

In addition to ensuring more accurate diagnoses and optimal care, the technology will improve the patient experience and safety, as well as communication between radiologists and other clinicians, says Atalay. “It will potentially offer us guidance in terms of management that we can then pass on to our clinical colleagues who are directly managing these patients.”

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