The progress in computers capability to analyse images, discover patterns, has been recognised long time ago and already in the nineties software was developed to help radiologists to diagnose cancers and other ailments in radiography. But so far computers have lagged behind an expert eye in detecting cancers.
In the USA an expert radiologist earns around 300,000$ a year and to decrease cost some hospitals have already outsourced to India the analyses of radiographies. The progress in computer capabilities, however, is now making computer diagnoses a good alternative to expert radiologists.
There are of course several legal issues tied to substituting a doctor with a computer but I feel that the path is already visible. As a matter of fact, blood analyses is today completely automatised, a computer takes care of everything and no-one is questioning the outcome. Radiology is just a step further on the same path towards automation of diagnoses.
At a conference in January 2013 in Zurich, doctors and scientists will make the point on progresses in the area of computer aided radiology. I am no expert in this area but it seems to me that computers are gaining the upper hand, as they did in managing many complex activities (including piloting a plane that today is mostly a computer job…).
The availability of big data (million of digitalised radiographies) is just beyond our human capability to grasp and learn, but it is the base for computers to get better and better.
An example is the EDiamond project in the UK for Mammography analyses
Today scientists have the goal of making computer becoming better and better, rather than bettering our capabilities. Not sure if we have already passed the thresholds and computers are already better than we could ever possibly be, but we are surely getting near to that point.