AI May As Well Stand for ‘Already Ingrained’

Two short years after added AI as a standalone beat, it seems the technology has burrowed into radiology like the Burmese python took to the Everglades. At first its presence was novel. Soon it became not uncommon. And now the infiltrator is in everyone’s head. It may as well be everywhere.

(For a reality check, watch for fresh survey results at AIin.Healthcare.)

Happily, the Big Data equivalent of an invasive species of big reptile is, unlike the real thing, a boon to its ecosystem. For the most part, anyway. On the downside, the technology’s rapid rise has caused a lot of fretting. Like a new snake in an old marsh, AI can and does scare some people. 

But if that’s the worst that can be said of this explosively transformative technology, don’t its pros vastly outweigh its cons? After all, driverless 18-wheelers are supposedly on the way too. And humanoid robots so lifelike and considerate they’ll make “biological friendships” obsolete. 

Of course, much of this is hype. AI continues to egg on dreamers as well as worrywarts (along with a few true visionaries). Still, overheated concern isn’t nothing. Especially when it’s widespread even among technophobes. 

Which may explain why the most-clicked news item we published this year in our website’s AI section involved one of humankind’s most primal fears—that of being chased away by an up-and-coming rival. 

The article was headlined “4 Reasons AI Won’t Replace Radiologists.” In it, my colleague Michael Walter covered a paper published in Radiology: Artificial Intelligence. The paper’s author, Stanford’s Curt Langlotz, MD, PhD, finally puts in writing what he’s been saying since the radiological AI brouhaha began. 

“Will AI replace radiologists? is the wrong question,” Langlotz maintains. “The right answer is: Radiologists who use AI will replace radiologists who don’t.” 

The news item is recapped inside this issue. It’s part of a Top 10 countdown of 2019’s best-read stories on AI. 

But before you do, please cash in on the promise of our cover and see who’ll be taking home trophies from RSNA in RBJ’s Second Annual Imaging Innovation Awards. The unveiling begins here. We’re running the winning entries in full because the genius is in the details. 

Also inside, look for feature articles on generalist radiologists in a subspecialist's world and CT as a cutting-edge technology 40 years after its invention. Plus we’ve got a listicle with smart tips on optimizing relationships with value-mind-ed referring physicians. 

And now for the last word of the year from RBJ on AI in radiology. RSNA appears to be making room for almost 150 exhibitors in its AI Showcase. That about doubles last year’s count. (Cue the script: “We’re going to need a bigger pavilion.”) 

At this point the technology isn’t so much a serpent to subdue as a dragon to ride. Saddle up, radiology.