European radiographers optimistic about AI’s future role in workflow

While radiographers (the European equivalent to radiologic technologists) are concerned about job security, they are also optimistic about AI’s role in their future workflow, according to a presentation on March 1 at the 2024 European Congress of Radiology.

In her presentation, Gemma Walsh from Whittington Health National Health Service (NHS) Trust in London, England, outlined the attitudes and perceptions of radiographers in a project she and colleagues are leading called “R-AI-diographers.”

  • “Radiographers appear optimistic about the future of radiographer job roles and responsibilities,” Walsh said. “But as we all know, the AI landscape is always changing, and this [project] is a snapshot of their opinions at this time.”

Walsh added that AI’s potential roles within radiology workflows continue to be explored in studies, but perceptions of the technology by radiologists have also been gathered.┬áPrevious survey analyses have identified that while many radiologists share concerns over legal and workforce implications, they also acknowledge AI’s potential for improving patient care.

The “R-AI-diographers” project gained insights into how diagnostic and therapeutic radiographers expect AI to change their roles and identities. The overarching goal is to improve how the radiographer workforce can be supported while technological changes occur at fast rates.

Project data focused on the following areas:

  • Demographics
  • Perceived short-term impact of AI on radiographer roles
  • Potential medium-to-long-term implications of AI
  • Perceived opportunities and threats on roles and careers
  • The preparedness of radiographers to work with AI
  • The potential for future AI leadership roles

Walsh and colleagues analyzed 2,258 valid responses from 37 different European countries. Of the total respondents, 31.3% had over 20 years of radiographer experience, and 31.3% had a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education. Additionally, 50.4% of respondents reported never using AI to their knowledge.

The team reported the following findings from their survey analysis:

  • 25.9% of radiographers disagreed that AI implementation would have them focus mainly on patient care, but 39.2% agreed that it would allow them more time with patients.
  • 41.39% agreed that image and treatment will remain the radiographer’s responsibility even with AI implementation, while 40% agreed that their technology problem-solving skills will improve.
  • 53.9% agreed that radiation protection responsibilities will remain the same.

Additionally, the respondents were split into three near-equal ways when it came to AI and job security:

  • While 32.5% of respondents said that job and career opportunities will remain the same, 32.3% said such opportunities will increase, and another 30.2% said they would decrease. 
  • Another 5% indicated “other” in their responses.

Finally, Walsh revealed that respondents said they most look forward to better patient care and outcomes as well as workflow efficiency. Meanwhile, staff de-skilling and loss of jobs were the top concerns reported.

  • “Radiographers will need educational support to combat the fear of de-skilling and job loss,” Walsh said. She added that the researchers will investigate careers and leadership roles in AI for radiographers next.

This presentation won the European Society of Radiology’s Radiographer Research Presentation Abstract Award.