Rage against the machine? Not so fast, radiologists

We’ve all seen the news stories and journal articles that warn of radiology’s demise at the hands of machine learning—heck, I’ve written about some of them myself—but the results of a recent patient survey should make radiologists feel good about the future of their profession.

The survey, published in the American Journal of Roentgenology, revealed a lot about patients and their perception of radiology. What stood out the most was the revelation that 84 percent of respondents said they were interested in meeting with a radiologist one on one. Eighty-four percent! That’s a wide majority, to be sure.

It’s easy to see why speaking directly to a radiologist would help provide a certain feeling of comfort. The world of medical imaging can be intimidating to patients, and waiting for your results can be downright scary.

These numbers show that radiologists can provide value that patients crave and robots simply can’t duplicate. Patients want to hear about their imaging results from a trained physician they can look in the eyes and converse with. IBM’s Watson might joke with Bob Dylan in a TV commercial, but that’s not quite the same as having a real face-to-face conversation.

So don’t let yourselves get too discouraged, radiologists. Yes, machine learning is here, and it’s going to impact the way you do your job in the future, but it won’t leave you out on the street.

Sometimes, the easiest way to provide value to a patient is to simply be there for them; and that’s something that can’t be provided by even the most advanced algorithm.