HH: Yes, there’s definitely a sense that radiology can be seen by other medical specialists as a kind of black box where they put in a request for an order for a scan and they simply get a result out.
The 1970s have become known as this ‘golden era’ of radiology, where radiologists were the hub of the hospital. Other doctors would do their rounds, end up in the radiology department and have long discussions about different cases. Now everything is digitized and simplified, which is why the radiologists have sort of been forced into the dark where no one goes to interrupt them anymore.
I would really like to see radiologists step into the light and become more patient-facing, letting AI take the burden of some of the routine stuff. Otherwise we could end up as outsourcing departments in the middle of nowhere, which I don’t think anyone wants to see happen.
AP: It’s interesting that Hugh mentioned the ‘golden era’ of radiology because that is brought up a fair amount in the US. And now there are misconceptions that radiologists are not playing as integral a role in patient care.
We need to make it clear that we are available for referring physicians to discuss the diagnosis and treatments of patients, including complex cases that demand a team effort.
In breast imaging, discussing a result with the patient is central to what I do, particularly with diagnostic examinations, and it puts patients’ minds at ease, especially if they have had a previous cancer diagnosis. So as much as AI and all this technology has the potential to create pretty significant changes in radiology, these intangibles that I speak of and the human touch cannot be replaced. So radiologists have to reiterate that we can add value where technology cannot.
HH: However, a knee surgeon is actually already very good at looking at imaging of the knee. If we have an AI system that can potentially provide him or her with all the information to make a decision on what to operate on, then the radiologist is not really required. This could be the danger with AI – more work could move away from us. It’ll start to happen slowly in very specific niche areas.
AP: Yes, there is at least a risk of us becoming less relevant, but again it comes down to us stepping out of our dark rooms so that we aren’t just known as a source that can be dictated and driven by AI and machine learning.