RSNA in review: Radiologists ready to make the most of AI

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 - Michael Walter
Michael Walter, Editor

At RSNA 2017 in Chicago, artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning technologies were everywhere. Attendees rushed to learn as much as possible about AI, countless educational sessions touched on the topic and exhibitors made sure to mention it in their booths as much as possible. I wouldn’t quite say AI took over the show like some have suggested, but it did make quite an impression on everyone walking through the doors of McCormick Place.

For me, the big news coming out of RSNA was that the chatter about AI wasn’t all negative or fearful like it seemed to be in the past. The industry’s initial reaction to these remarkable technologies may have been to worry about job security, but that dread has quickly transformed into acceptance, intrigue and positivity. Radiologists are done worrying about AI and ready to start using it to their advantage.

For example, Tarik Alkasab, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, gave a fascinating presentation about the benefits of providing ordering physicians with data-enabled radiology reports. It takes some extra work to create such a report, Alkasab said, but radiologists will soon have a bit more time to put in that extra effort thanks to AI tackling some more ordinary tasks. Nobody’s counting any chickens before they hatch, of course, but it’s that kind of forward-thinking perspective that has helped radiology thrive.

Next time you read an over-the-top headline in Forbes or The New York Times and start to fear the worst, just remember how intelligent, innovative and adaptable radiologists can be. The industry’s successful shift to patient-centered care shows that it knows how to demonstrate its value, even if it's suddenly sharing office space with a few state-of-the-art algorithms.

As Paul Chang, MD, of the University of Chicago School of Medicine, said in another great RSNA session, the smart money is staying calm and not viewing AI as either a “horrible threat” or a “savior.” Instead, consider it the latest in a long line of disruptive technologies radiology has had to adapt to over the years.

I’m thrilled imaging professionals seem to be less worried about AI. The industry is going to do some great things with these technologies, providing more value than ever along the way. It will be a pleasure to watch that all unfold.