Could AI keep medical students away from radiology?

Medical students see AI technologies as a considerable threat to the future of radiology, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Radiology. In fact, students appear to be more concerned about AI than actual radiologists.

Researchers surveyed 59 radiologists, 55 medical students and 56 surgeons about a number of topics, including AI, teleradiology, 3D printing and more. The online survey was available from May to June 2018.

“We were interested in the opinions of medical students, as they are the next generation of doctors and possible radiologists, and the opinions of surgeons, as a group of clinicians whose work is strongly influenced by radiology,” wrote lead author Jasper van Hoek, University Hospital and University of Bern in Switzerland, and colleagues.

Overall, radiologists, medical students and surgeons all appreciated what the use of AI could do for radiology. The three groups also shared a negative opinion of AI being used alone—with no human assistance—for image evaluation.

Students agreed more with the idea that AI would be bad for diagnostic radiology than radiologists. Using a 21-point Likert scale where -10 represented “strongly disagree” and 10 represented “strongly agree,” radiologists had a median answer of -3 and students had a median answer of 1.

These findings, the authors observed, suggest that “the future of radiology should be discussed more during medical education, but also among radiologists.”

“Students might overestimate the dangers of AI to radiology, whereas many radiologists might perceive the future of AI in fact to be more negative than how it is portrayed in most radiological publications on this topic,” the authors wrote. “Such efforts could lead to better education of the students about AI and thus attune them to a more positive view of this emerging technology within the field of radiology. Since early exposure to radiology in medical studies has shown a positive effect on the students’ attitude towards radiology, it should be taught as early as possible together with AI.”

The researchers also explored how the growth of AI could have mixed results on which students end up pursuing a career in radiology. While some medical students may not like the sound of a specialty where the work is getting more complex and working with AI will be required, “these new possibilities could attract tech-savvy students to choose radiology as their specialty.”