Can AI free-up time for more doctor-patient interactions?

The desire to deliver patient-centered care drives many caring and high-achieving individuals to pursue a career in medicine, and artificial intelligence (AI) can unburden today's physicians so they can stay focused on that primary goal. Two UC-Davis physicians suggested as much in an opinion piece published online Dec. 12 in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Despite reservations from physicians regarding adopting AI into their practice, radiologist Shadi Aminololama-Shakeri, MD, and internal-med specialist Javier E. López, MD, argued that the technology can actually automate many of the repetitive and time-consuming tasks that force face-to-face interactions with computers rather than patients.

“…By incorporating AI technologies into our practices, we will be afforded more latitude to concentrate on our interactions with patients, thereby emphasizing our most important role in health care: serving as doctor to our patients,” the pair wrote.

Breast imaging in particular will experience some of the most beneficial changes, according to Aminololama-Shakeri and López. For example, they noted AI may alter order processing, examination protocoling, radiology reporting and clinical decision support tools. Breast cancer screening itself could even become automated.

The automation of these tasks could, in turn, allow breast imagers to have the complex discussions and interactions with patients many clinicians wish to have, but struggle to find the time for.

In the future, breast imagers may not be seen as solely radiologists focusing on the breast, but specialists with the training and time to focus on diagnosing and managing breast cancer, Aminololama-Shakeri and López wrote.

“It is essential that breast imaging radiologists accept and embrace the advancements in technology that have the potential to revolutionize the practice of medicine,” the authors wrote. “By integrating AI into our daily clinical routines, we may be able to once again prioritize our interactions with patients. This may afford us the time to concentrate on the areas in which humans excel: establishing emotional connections, expressing empathy, and providing patient-centered diagnostic and treatment strategies.”