CHICAGO — Medical imaging has been one of the areas in healthcare most ripe for digital disruption.
“Phase 1 has already occurred,” Don Woodlock, senior vice president and general manager for Enterprise Imaging at GE Healthcare, told Business Insider. “There’s no film, images come off of all these modalities and get put into this system and radiologists can read them.”
With that stage done, though, other issues have come up, says Woodlock. One in particular: radiologists have become disconnected from other healthcare providers. They spend more time reading images but have fewer opportunities to talk with the physicians ordering the imaging.
“Part of the problem with radiology when we digitised it is we isolated the radiologist to be an image interpreter, not necessarily part of the care team,” he said. “The radiologists speaks less to the other physicians than before.” To counter this problem, companies are cooking up solutions. Woodlock pointed to a suite of cloud-based apps that GE unveiled at the RSNA conference that aim to connect radiologist to other healthcare professionals caring for patients. Many other companies in the enterprise imaging space have been trying to connect those dots as well.
When radiology will see AI digital disruption
Woodlock says the next step in the digitization of radiology is machine learning: the ability for a computer to learn without being programmed. The idea is to help radiologists get more productive, he said, not to replace them.
This notion — that artificial intelligence and machine learning should be viewed as tools for the doctor, rather as replacements — was emphasised at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual conference in Chicago this week.
Hedvig Hricak, chair of the radiology department at Memorial Sloan Kettering said in a lecture Tuesday that AI tools would make radiology “more relevant than ever.”
“The history of automation in the broader economy has a reassuring message,” Penn radiology professor Saurabh Jha and Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute wrote in a Tuesday JAMA article.
“Jobs are not lost; rather, roles are redefined; humans are displaced to tasks needing a human element. Radiologists and pathologists need not fear artificial intelligence but rather must adapt incrementally to artificial intelligence, retaining their own services for cognitively challenging tasks.”
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