U.K. team analyzes medical students' views on AI, radiology

By Erik L. Ridley, AuntMinnieEurope staff writer

February 17, 2020 -- A survey of nearly 500 medical students in the U.K. found that about half were less likely to consider a career in radiology due to the perceived threat of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The research was published online on 5 February in Insights into Imaging.

There was a silver lining, however. Those medical students who had received teaching in AI were more likely to consider radiology than those who hadn't, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Cherry Sit of Guy's and St. Thomas' National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust in London.

"In our opinion, the persisting misconception of AI rendering radiologists obsolete should be urgently addressed," the authors wrote. "Realistic potential use cases and limitations of this technology must be presented to medical students so that they will not feel discouraged to embrace radiology as a career."

Prior studies assessing the opinions of medical students on AI in radiology have produced conflicting results. One group reported that a significant proportion of Canadian medical students were less likely to consider radiology as a career due to fear of being replaced by AI. However, a German research team found in 2018 that only a minority of medical students believed AI would replace radiologists. Meanwhile, a Swiss research team concluded that medical students were pessimistic about the danger AI represents to diagnostic radiologists.

In their study, the U.K. investigators sought to ascertain how U.K. medical students viewed and understood AI, as well as how AI affected decisions to pursue a career in radiology. They also wanted to evaluate the current state of education for AI during medical school training.

After sending out an electronic survey to 19 U.K. medical schools, they received 484 responses from medical students. There were several key findings:

  • 49% were less likely to consider a career in radiology due to AI.
  • 89% believed that teaching in AI would be beneficial to their careers.
  • 78% agreed that students should receive training in AI as part of their medical degree.
  • Only 45 students (9%) received any training on AI, and none received that training as part of their compulsory curriculum.

"It is worrying that a large number of students in our cohort are discounting radiology as a possible career given the acute shortage of radiologists in the UK," the authors wrote. "The workforce consequences are potentially catastrophic, especially with an ever-increasing demand for imaging investigations."

On the bright side, those students who received training in AI were more likely to consider radiology (p = 0.01) and had more positive ratings on questions related to perceived competence in using AI after graduation (p = 0.01-0.04). However, a large portion of these students still reported a lack of confidence and understanding required for the critical use of healthcare AI tools.

"Our findings suggest that there is a paucity of relevant teaching amongst U.K. medical schools, despite the current generation of U.K. medical students being motivated to engage with AI and informatics teaching," the authors wrote.


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