The risks associated with medical malpractice lawsuits are well known to most physicians, and radiologists are no exception. According to the Medscape Malpractice Report 2019, radiologists were among the top 10 specialties likely to be sued. We believe artificial intelligence (AI) can help reduce malpractice risks for breast radiologists, and here is why.

Prevention is better than cure

Why deal with malpractice lawsuits when it’s easier to prevent them. The majority of malpractice cases result from a physician’s misdiagnosis. Approximately from 10% to 30% of breast cancers are missed on mammography. Here are a few causes of misdiagnosis and tips on how to avoid them.

Misdiagnosis cause 1: lack of experience

Lack of experience can lead to medical errors. This article describes tips for lowering malpractice risks. Jonathan L. Mezrich, MD advises to avoid reading studies if you lack adequate training and you should always ask for a colleague’s opinion when reviewing complex cases. 

However, following tip #1 may be challenging for young physicians: they often have no choice other than to step out of their comfort zone and perform complicated reads, despite their lack of experience. In addition, their colleagues are not always there to assist. 

This is where AI is very useful, as it enhances breast cancer detection accuracy. Radiologists can use AI’s analysis results to get another opinion on the case. Additionally, the software can assist them via the indications shown on the mammogram which draw their attention to suspicious findings.

Misdiagnosis cause 2: lack of time

Mammography volumes continue to increase while the work day hours stay the same. Radiologists are under constant pressure to increase the amount of studies being read.  This, in turn, means that they are forced to spend less time on each case, which may result in diagnostic errors. 

AI can decrease the time physicians spend on easy cases allowing more time to concentrate on difficult cases that demand more attention. This helps radiologists obtain their reading volume speed and maintain accuracy.

Misdiagnosis cause 3: emotional dimension

The emotional dimension of decision-making can also negatively impact diagnostic accuracy. The stressful atmosphere at the practice and fear of making a mistake contribute to increased anxiety levels and burnout, which is quite common in radiologists. 

AI can work as a safety net for physicians via marks that indicate an area they may have missed. It may also boost their confidence level by confirming what they suspect. 

AI as a shield from malpractice liability

If a malpractice lawsuit is filed, can the use of AI by radiologists impact its results? According to a study, it can.  Physicians accepting AI recommendations are seen as less liable

Jurors judged physicians following standard recommendations of an AI-based tool more favorably than those who did not. As indicated in a recent study published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, the tort law system leans toward supporting the use of AI tools, rather than opposing them.

Moreover, contrary to common perception, patients as well are less averse to AI-assisted judgment: a survey conducted by Accenture in 2020 revealed that 52% of people trusted diagnoses determined by a physician and supported by AI.

Jonathan L. Mezrich, MD, a radiologist at Yale University School of Medicine’s Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging in New Haven, Conn., noted: “Keep up to date on and use available technology. If a finding is easily located with the aid of computer-aided detection or dual-energy sequences and your facility has access to those, not using this technology may be hard to sell to a jury.”