ACR 2017: GE's Immelt says radiologists should not fear AI

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WASHINGTON, DC - Radiologists should take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) by using it to improve their hospitals and practices, and they shouldn't fear that the technology will take their jobs, advised Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, during a May 21 keynote address at the American College of Radiology (ACR) meeting.

Immelt, who ran the GE Medical Systems business (now GE Healthcare) from 1997 to 2001, described AI as a "sequential technology" that will come to healthcare in gradual steps. And if radiologists think that someday patients will be diagnosed by AI robots, they will miss the opportunity to solve some of today's critical healthcare issues.

Jeffrey Immelt, GE chairman and CEO.Jeffrey Immelt, GE chairman and CEO.
Jeffrey Immelt, GE chairman and CEO.

"I think [AI] is right in the wheelhouse of ACR going into the future. It will be experiential; it will be experimental," Immelt said. "If we can make our technologists smarter so there are fewer retakes, if we can make diagnostics around cancer better, if we can do these [types of] things, you will be heroes. These are all sequentially big things in terms of what we can do as an industry."

To that end, GE last week unveiled a 10-year plan to collaborate with Partners HealthCare on the development, validation, and integration of deep-learning technology.

Looking toward the next decade, Immelt sees radiology as "one of the most important diagnostic tools" in healthcare, he said. One key focus will be in the area of brain research, specifically dementia and traumatic brain injury.

"The notion of more dementia and traumatic brain injury will put incredible stress on the healthcare system," he said. "This is both clinically interesting and, from a societal and economic standpoint, one of the two or three most important problems we face."

The ability to devise better methods to study the brain and combine that information with individualized therapy will advance personal medicine, Immelt said. Another priority will be to bring diagnostic technologies to more remote parts of the world to serve people who do not have access to healthcare.

Regarding the current battle over the Affordable Care Act and how to improve insurance options for patients, Immelt suggested that the U.S. Senate now has much work to do.

"We will be working on healthcare, every day, every month, every year, for the rest of our lives," he added. "We need to find ways to solve this cost issue, where we have transferred it from one group in our society to the other. We have to see how to work within the system to solve that. We also have to improve the efficacy, the cost, the quality, and the access of radiology. That pressure will not go away."

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