Radiology technologists ‘poised’ to embrace, supervise upcoming AI era

Radiologic technologists are largely embracing the marriage of imaging and AI, and have an important role to play in ensuring a positive future for the profession, according to a Jan. 17 white paper.

The American Society of Radiologic Technologists surveyed nearly 20,000 medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals as part of its document—“The Artificial Intelligence Era: The Role of Radiologic Technologists and Radiation Therapists.” It captures imaging professional’s attitudes toward the tech and how they believe the upcoming revolution may impact the profession and patient care.

Most of those who responded see AI as a beneficial advancement, positively impacting safety and quality. In fact, nearly 40% of 18- to 24-year-olds believe the change will expand the scope of their role.

“The combination of equipment with machine learning and the educated professional will help radiologic science staff work smarter while providing the essential human element of patient care,” ASRT’s Health Care Industry Advisory Council Corporate Roundtable Subcommittee on Artificial Intelligence wrote in the whitepaper.

Despite the positivity, there is some healthy skepticism that remains. For instance, an average of 24% of respondents believe machine learning will reduce their role, with 31% saying AI would reduce radiology’s place in medicine overall. More than 45%, however, don’t think AI will impact staffing levels.

The 21-page document also assessed how much technologists and radiation therapy professionals trust this new technology. Authors concluded these groups have a “healthy level of trust.” More than 80% have faith in AI, indicating they are “poised” to embrace and supervise these AI-based devices, the authors wrote.

“It is encouraging to know that ASRT members responding to the ASRT survey appear to already represent a healthy level of trust when it comes to AI,” the authors noted, but cautioned these experts must not become overly reliant on such technology. Doing so, they argued, could lead to complacency or automation bias—a tendency for humans to favor decisions created by machines without considering real-world data.

Much of these positive changes, however, rely on the technologists willingness to learn and embrace the change.

“Medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals should embrace the positive role of AI in patient care and its assistance with manual and repetitive tasks, leaving them time to perform more value-added responsibilities,” the study authors concluded. “Professionals still will practice the science and techniques for which they were trained with the help of relatable, pertinent and predictive tools."

Read the entire white paper here.