Machine learning will replace human radiologists, pathologists, maybe soon

As artificial intelligence, cognitive computing and machine learning systems become better than humans at medicine and cost less, it might even become unethical not to replace people.
By Tom Sullivan
03:46 PM

SAN FRANCISCO — Artificial intelligence, machine learning and cognitive computing systems will replace a number of human jobs, even those requiring higher education, including doctors.

“The numbers suggest that machine learning is happening,” Leonard D’Avolio, CEO of Cyft, said at the Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum on Monday. “The opportunity has been sensed and the money is flowing.”

D’Avolio pointed specifically to radiology and pathology as ripe areas for machines to replace humans — even suggesting that in the future it could become unethical not to do so.


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“In any part of healthcare where a human is interpreting data or images, when a computer does a better job than a human and costs less, the argument could be made that it would be wrong not to use a computer,” D’Avolio said.

That’s the future, of course, and not today’s state for most healthcare providers, D’Avolio said.

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The reality is that hospitals don’t buy machine learning or artificial intelligence for the technology’s sake or to replace humans right now. Instead, they buy solutions to specific problems, such as improving care or reducing readmissions.

Dignity Health is investigating ways to use machine learning to potentially delve into the patient experience and better grasp what works, what does not and ultimately retrospectively figure out what went wrong with a given patient, according to Gurmeet Sran, MD, Medical Director of Health Analytics and Data Science at ‎Dignity Health.

Could that work one day replace human jobs? The answer remains to be seen, of course.

“Innovation does not happen in leaps and bounds. It will be incremental,” D’Avolio said. “But we are now talking about replacing doctors, lawyers and other professionals.” 

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