Futurist contemplates robot rads

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u-BOT 5 medical robot designed by researchers at the University of Massachusetts

Radiologists may face new competition in the form of ultra-intelligent robots if a hypothesis offered in The Atlantic on Feb. 14 holds true.

“In spite of the radiologist's training requirement of at least thirteen additional years beyond high school, it is conceptually quite easy to envision this job being automated. The primary focus of the job is to analyze and evaluate visual images. Furthermore, the parameters of each image are highly defined since they are often coming directly from a computerized scanning device,” wrote author Martin Ford.

According to Ford, the leap from visual analysis of security photographs to robotic analysis of medical images may be a mere baby step. In fact, CAD employs the same underlying technical principles as visual security software, and CAD is progressing from computer-aided detection to computer-aided diagnosis.

Admittedly, the transition to primary reading by robots is an over-simplification, but it may not be ridiculously far-fetched. Ford points to trends in other industries where automation follows offshoring (think teleradiology).

Is robotized radiology the next wrinkle in the commoditization dilemma, or is it sci-fi? I’m not placing any bets. It will take a far brighter mind than mine to untangle that future.

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