Creative Use of Technology Key to the Future of Radiology

Monday, Nov. 26, 2018

Through the creative use of informatics, business analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), radiologists can increase their value and job satisfaction while expanding their profile with patients, according to a leading expert who delivered the Annual Oration in Diagnostic Radiology Sunday at the Arie Crown Theater.



Michael P. Recht, MD, chair of the Department of Radiology at NYU Langone Health in New York City, began his talk, "Artificial Intelligence, Analytics, and Informatics: The Future is Here," with a look back to the days when the reading room was the hub of the hospital and radiologists were "the doctors' doctors" with routinely high rates of job satisfaction. Then, after playing a clip of Bob Dylan singing "The Times They are a-Changing," Dr. Recht described how developments like decreased reimbursements and the rapidly developing field of AI have pushed the profession to a point where the rewards of the job are being overwhelmed by the pressures of an increasingly demanding clinical workload.

Nevertheless, the future is far from bleak, Dr. Recht suggested, as long as radiologists recognize that technology can drive positive change, allowing them "to go back to the future and return to their central role in the clinical team."

Informatics innovations like virtual rounds and virtual consults, enhanced imaging reports and collaborative imaging pathways can help radiologists increase their visibility and value while saving time, Dr. Recht said. He strongly advised departments to consider adding reading room coordinators to handle phone calls and interface with the IT department.

"This has been a great timesaver for our radiologists and I can tell you that of all the IT innovations we have introduced, this is probably the most popular and has brought the most job satisfaction," Dr. Recht said.

Data Must be Accurate, Accessible, Actionable

Business analytics represent another vital way for radiologists to improve their job satisfaction, according to Dr. Recht. He bemoaned the slow uptake of advanced metrics and analytics in radiology departments.

"Even when used, the data are typically not real time, and their extraction and display, require the services of dedicated IT or analytics personnel," Dr. Recht said. "To truly derive value from data, it is necessary to ensure that the data is accurate, easily accessible, and most importantly, actionable."

Analytics can help departments understand the impact of upgrades, such as the addition of dockable tables and dedicated prep rooms in the MRI suite to decrease turnaround time and increase revenue.

"Data translates into power," he said. "Without it, we fall prey to HIPPO syndrome, which, as you may know, translates into 'the highest-paid-person's opinion.'"

Like many radiology leaders, Dr. Recht expressed optimism that AI will augment rather than replace radiologists. He focused his AI discussion on data acquisition and the potential of deep learning (DL) algorithms to produce diagnostic-quality MRI scans in as little as five minutes. In side-by-side comparisons, the DL musculoskeletal image reconstructions Dr. Recht displayed were almost indistinguishable from conventional scans.

Chief among the challenges to AI implementation is the lack of large, curated data sets. Dr. Recht and his colleagues at NYU Langone are helping to tackle this shortfall through a collaboration with the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research Group (FAIR). The NYU-FAIR group just released what Dr. Recht called "the largest fully sampled data set in MR," including 1,600 data sets of the knee.

"I believe that through the creative use of technology we can create new value and help return radiologists to their central role in the clinical care team, thereby increasing our purpose and our sense of satisfaction," Dr. Recht said.