Artificial Intelligence

Does ‘Automation Neglect’ Limit AI’s Impact?

Chest X-ray AI

Radiologists ignored AI suggestions in a new study because of “automation neglect,” a phenomenon in which humans are less likely to trust algorithmic recommendations. The findings raise questions about whether AI really should be used as a collaborative tool by radiologists. 

How radiologists use AI predictions has become a growing area of research as AI moves into the clinical realm. Most use cases see radiologists employing AI in a collaborative role as a decision-making aid when reviewing cases. 

But is that really the best way to use AI? In a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers from Harvard Medical School and MIT explored the effectiveness of radiologist performance when assisted by AI, in particular its impact on diagnostic quality.

They ran an experiment in which they manipulated radiologist access to predictions from the CheXpert AI algorithm for 324 chest X-ray cases, and then analyzed the results. They also assessed radiologist performance with and without clinical context. The 180 radiologists participating in the study were recruited from US teleradiology firms, as well as from a health network in Vietnam. 

It was expected that AI would boost radiologist performance, but instead accuracy remained unchanged:

  • AI predictions were more accurate than two-thirds of the radiologists
  • Yet, AI assistance failed to improve the radiologists’ diagnostic accuracy, as readers underweighted AI findings by 30% compared to their own assessments
  • Radiologists took 4% longer to interpret cases when either AI or clinical context were added
  • Adding clinical context to cases had a bigger impact on radiologist performance than adding AI interpretations

The findings show automation neglect can be a “major barrier” to human-AI collaboration. Interestingly, the new article seems to run counter to a previous study finding that radiologists who received incorrect AI results were more likely to follow the algorithm’s suggestions – against their own judgment. 

The Takeaway

The authors themselves admit the new findings are “puzzling,” but they do have intriguing ramifications. In particular, the researchers suggest that there may be limitations to the collaborative model in which humans and AI work together to analyze cases. Instead, it may be more effective to assign AI exclusively to certain studies, while radiologists work without AI assistance on other cases.

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