Artificial intelligence is coming to dermatology: who knows what and when?

Skin cancers

By Mardi Chapman

23 Mar 2021

Dermatologists are optimistic about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their specialty, for example by removing monotonous tasks and improving disease screening.

According to a survey of 632 Australian and New Zealand specialists – ophthalmologists, radiologists /radiation oncologists and dermatologists – AI will impact the medical workforce within the next decade.

While most specialists reported an average, above average or excellent knowledge of AI, most (80.9%) had never used AI applications in their work.

Amongst dermatologists who had used AI, the most common applications used were those used for skin lesion surveillance and voice transcription.

Those who had already used AI believed it would have an impact on their profession earlier than those who did not use AI. Younger clinicians were also more likely to think AI would have a significant impact on their practice than older clinicians.

Most were however largely optimistic about the future.

“Respondents who reported using AI were more likely to report that the introduction of AI would lead to the need for an increase in workforce numbers than did those who did not use AI (p = 0.006),” the researchers said.

“The top ranked advantage for ophthalmologists and dermatologists was ‘improved patient access to disease screening’ and the top ranked advantage for radiologists/radiation oncologists was ‘reduced time spent on monotonous tasks’.”

“Recognition of the need for increased disease screening capacity may be explained by the combined effects of workforce maldistribution in regional and rural areas versus urban areas and projected increases in the burden of diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy and skin cancer, due to population ageing and growth,” they said.

Most survey respondents considered that AI systems would need to achieve performance that was superior to the average performing specialist when applied to screening for disease (64.1%) or for diagnostic decision support (80.1%).

The top ranked concern for dermatologists was ‘concerns over medical liability due to machine error’.

Speciality training colleges will have to lift their game on AI, with only 13.8% of respondents confident their colleges were adequately prepared for the introduction of AI into clinical practice.

“Many respondents (n = 285) highlighted a need for improved training and education of college members about AI via scientific meetings, seminars, and the training curriculum.”

Safeguarding member interests, developing guidelines for AI implementation and development position statements were also suggestions for colleges.

The survey results were published in Scientific Reports.

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