Dr. Matthew Mauro, president of the Radiological Society of North America, said generative artificial intelligence will be a ‘major force’ in healthcare that radiologists should embrace.
“Will [radiologists] become obsolete or unnecessary? No,” Mauro said during a speech at the annual radiologists' meeting in Chicago on Sunday. “When embraced, AI will open new doors for us. As AI applications continue to improve, they [algorithms] will be able to absorb or assist with a host of tasks.”
Mauro said rapidly advancing AI technology will be able to assist radiologists in various tasks ranging from scheduling appointments to triaging imaging studies.
“In terms of major forces that impact our business, AI is most certainly a 10X force and it is up to us to adapt and embrace it or be left behind,” Mauro said. “To remain relevant and provide value to our patients, radiologists need to lead through this transformative moment.”
Mauro's comments echoed number of experts who say AI can be a potential remedy to mounting challenges felt by radiologists such as staff shortages and the increasing number of images clinicians need to process.
But others are more cautious about the hype. Dr. Elizabeth Burnside, a professor and senior associate dean at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health, said during a speech on Monday that radiologists need to adopt AI carefully.
“I really feel we must find a way to return value—and that might mean profit—reaped by AI tools back to patients as their data will forever fuel accurate algorithms,” Burnside said. “As soon as AI causes a problem for a patient, it becomes very solemn and somber. So, we do need to figure out we return value to patients or the health system.”
The hype around AI is not dissimilar from what was seen at other healthcare conferences this year including HIMSS and HLTH, where the buzz around generative artificial intelligence was palpable. AI is used more often in radiology than any other specialty, which has led to mixed feelings in the profession about the technology's effect on its future. A study from May by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California found that 22% of medical students said they were less likely to choose radiology as a career due to concerns about advances in AI.
Vendors that filled exhibit halls at the event were working to sell the value of their AI-powered products to radiologists. Chicago-based GE Healthcare said it is working on a new ultrasound model that allows doctors to detect and track abnormalities in real-time images in handheld devices.
“We think about it as a connected ecosystem,” said Dr. Taha Kass-Hout, GE Healthcare’s chief technology officer. “Also, we’re inviting third party vendors to come and be in this sort of sandbox with us and be in our ecosystem to provide even more value to our customers.”
GE HealthCare joins a number of traditional imaging and radiology companies investing in AI offerings. Pharmaceutical company Bayer, which has a radiology division where it sells imaging products to hospitals, launched its own digital platform and a business unit to work with AI startups and other digital health providers. Thanos Karras, Bayer’s head of digital solutions for the Americas region, said AI's perception has evolved among radiologists in recent years.
“The space has evolved. There's more acceptance,” Karras said. “There was a lot of fear and apprehension last year."