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Rise of AI set to transform field of radiography

Thursday 5th October 2017
How will advances in artificial intelligence transform the field of radiography in the future? Image: Gumpanat via iStock
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Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will significantly transform radiography in the UK over the next few years, changing the role of radiographers as a result.

At last month's NHS England Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester, chief executive of the NHS Simon Stevens spoke about recent research published in medical journal the Lancet that discussed how AI will change imaging and diagnosis in healthcare settings in the future.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt believes that machines will one day be able to accurately diagnose illnesses even before symptoms appear, perhaps even by the time the NHS reaches its 80th birthday in 2028.

He told delegates at the expo: "The changes in medical innovation are likely to transform humanity by as much in the next 25 years as the internet has in the last 25 years."

Machines may be able to detect and diagnose symptoms at a faster and more accurate rate than humans, freeing up professionals to spend more time on research or treating patients. Utilising AI could even help to resolve some of the staffing issues radiography departments across the country are currently facing.

The Lancet article estimated that radiologists typically analyse more than ten million images throughout their careers, but machines would be able to check even more.

Mr Stevens commented: "We have a great opportunity to get smarter about the way we are using AI and machine learning with datasets to improve the quality of clinical care."

However, human experts would still be needed to make sure that machines are being properly maintained, while they would also be required to step in with expert radiography knowledge in the event of the technology failing.

Therefore, radiographers shouldn't have to worry about future demand for access to their skills. Instead, they may have to adapt their skillsets slightly in order to reflect the growing use of AI, which looks set to enhance the field significantly in the not-too-distant future.

Written by Megan Smith

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