By Jan Makela

Radiologists are busy—perhaps, too busy. And artificial intelligence (AI) is coming to their rescue. According to a 2022 survey from Medscape, nearly half (49%) of radiologists say they are suffering from burnout, and just 59% say they are “very” or “somewhat” happy outside of work—a number that dropped significantly, from 77%, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The reasons are many, including a global shortage of radiologists to meet the increased ‘new normal’ demand for imaging services and heightened expectations for fast turnaround times. Also, there is a continuing surge for services as radiologists strive to reduce the backlog stemming from the two-year-long pandemic. 

Add in the increase in the use of data analytics in diagnosing and observing patients, and the imaging room is busier than ever. As a result, the industry and its practitioners have reached a dangerous tipping point due to longer shifts, greater administrative duties, and other workflow pressures.

Radiologists, and the clinicians they serve, are begging for help. Thanks to ongoing technological advancements, they are beginning to see the light at the end of the scanning machine tunnel. Through AI and other digital technologies, imaging productivity is rising, throughput is increasing, and enhanced imaging quality is helping improve diagnostic accuracy—all of which, happily, are helping ease the burden on overworked radiologists.

At GE HealthCare, we are proud of our 125-year legacy of solving healthcare challenges. Today, our precision innovation strategy is to fill the gaps in healthcare systems’ workflows to increase access and improve outcomes for patients—all while achieving greater connectivity, resilience, and agility to enhance the clinician experience.

By integrating data, analytics, and devices, we are delivering technology solutions that are helping clinicians save lives —while helping radiologists save their careers by helping to relieve workplace stress.  

Deep-Learning and AI to the Burnout Rescue

In 2022 alone, GE HealthCare unveiled more than 40 solutions designed to address some of the biggest challenges in healthcare today, such as rising cost pressures; increasing staff shortages; reducing burnout; and delivering outcomes—all with an eye toward ensuring these solutions are relevant for healthcare’s future, too. 

One noteworthy advancement is AIR™ Recon DL, which is using deep-learning technology to revolutionize MR imaging through improved signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), image sharpness, and shorter scan time. To date, an estimated 5.5 million patients globally have been scanned with AIR Recon DL. With scan times up to 50% faster, radiologists’ productivity improves and scheduling—and staying on schedule—is much easier. Thanks to its deep-learning-based reconstruction algorithm, images are pin-sharp, accurate, and appear immediately on the console.

AIR Recon DL is part of the SIGNA Experience, a platform of four synergistic technologies that help ensure the smoothest MRI scanning experience possible for the physician, radiologists of all skill levels, and the patient. Other automated, intelligent workflow solutions—including AIR x and AIRTouch—are guiding technologists to help make setting up the MRI equipment (including external AIR coils) better, faster, and easier.

Because the platform’s workflow is intuitive and requires virtually no learning curve, radiologists can keep track of progress at a glance with useful visual reminders, showing them where they are at any point within the scanning process.

Similarly, the intelligent workload management solution for the PACS operates on predictive analytics.  Provided through Quantum Imaging & Therapeutic Associates’ Helix Radiology Performance Suite, this  tool helps optimize radiologists’ workflow across an entire enterprise, another key factor in improving radiologists’ productivity and reducing burnout.

Are these and other technological advancements working to reduce stress and burnout? The anecdotal evidence is that they are, and we are eager to continue our efforts to find innovative ways for doing so efficiently while also helping clinicians deliver the personal and precise care that patients deserve. 

Jan Makela is president and CEO, Imaging at GE HealthCarea leading global medical technology, pharmaceutical diagnostics and digital solutions innovator.