As AI continues to evolve, radiologists must once again embrace change

Healthcare technology is constantly changing, something radiologists know all too well. And while some within the specialty have expressed fear or concern over the continued rise of AI, a new commentary in Clinical Radiology noted that it’s all par for the course—and radiologists must rise to the occasion yet again.

“The key is to ensure that AI is used to address important unmet clinical needs, whether in relation to triage and diagnostic tools, improved workflow or sustainability of healthcare,” wrote Andrea Rockall, clinical chair of radiology at Imperial College London. “Applications of AI must primarily serve patient needs, not just what's interesting or feasible.”

A key component of the use of AI in healthcare, Rockall explained, is the presence of “high-quality data that allow an important question to be answered or a successful tool to be developed.” Radiologists must help make sure the datasets used by researchers are effective, working with “patient representatives, computing colleagues and machine learning scientists” every step of the way.

Radiologists can also help pave the way forward for this new technology by developing strategies that connect this high-quality data with the right researchers.

“We must avoid narrow, biased or discriminatory restrictions,” Rockall wrote. “We must ensure that good ideas (or use cases) can be tested on the best available data-sets. We can look to our colleagues managing tissue banks for strategies that ensure strong data access policies.”

AI research must also take place in a clinical environment as opposed to being limited to research labs and single datasets. Other industries may push out AI algorithms and solutions before they have been tested again and again in an array of environments, but such measures can’t occur when patient care is involved. It’s yet another example of the responsibilities facing radiologists as these technologies continue to grow and change.  

“Our broad radiology community has a unique opportunity to engage with this exciting scientific evolution, working with interdisciplinary ‘convergence science’ teams,” Rockall concluded. “Ultimately, this teamwork has the potential to improve patient care, within a sustainable framework. We should not fear the changes involved, but we must engage with them to ensure patient benefit, and a continuing meaningful role for radiologists.”