Artificial intelligence is transforming radiology, but it still can't make human judgment calls

Doctor looking at X-ray
Will artificial intellligence replace radiologists? (Getty/bernardbodo)

Automation is expected to replace millions of jobs in the coming years, but it’s not just blue-collar workers in the crossfire. Technology is changing the way some doctors work, and that could result in lower demand for some specialties.

As artificial intelligence expands into healthcare, radiologists will be among the first doctors who will have to adapt.

That’s because AI can help read the medical images that radiologists use to diagnose and treat patients, providing better services at lower costs by, for instance, improving the analysis of an MRI. "This is going to be transformational," Keith Dreyer, D.O., vice chairman of radiology computing and information sciences at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN.

Massachusetts General Hospital is embracing the change, organizing data to train algorithms with a focus on 25 ways AI can respond to match the image interpretation that a radiologist does now.

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Will radiologists some day be obsolete? Geoffrey Hinton, an expert in AI, suggested that medical schools should stop training doctors to be radiologists, according to CNN.

But others in the field won’t go that far. Radiologists will still be needed to make judgment calls, said Carla Leibowitz, head of strategy and marketing at Arterys, a company that has created a program to read MRIs of the heart.

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With artificial intelligence poised to take over image-centric medical domains, some health experts are urging radiologists and pathologists to consider merging into a single specialty. They could take on a single role as “information specialists,” allowing computers to take over the menial tasks associated with reading images.