AI beats human doctors in neuroimaging recognition contest

Jul. 02, 2018 14:48:00

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The human doctor team is comprised of 24 from China and one from Singapore. Photo provided by Tiantan Hospital

By Jia Zhao, Yuan Quan, Lin Miaomiao

An artificial intelligence (AI) system scored 2:0 against elite human physicians Saturday (June 30) in two rounds of competitions in diagnosing brain tumors and predicting hematoma expansion in Beijing.

The BioMind AI system, developed by the Artificial Intelligence Research Centre for Neurological Disorders at the Beijing Tiantan Hospital and a research team from the Capital Medical University, made correct diagnoses in 87 percent of 225 cases in about 15 minutes, while a team of 15 senior doctors only achieved 66-percent accuracy.

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The BioMind developed by Tiantan Hospital. Photo by Jia Zhao

The AI also gave correct predictions in 83 percent of brain hematoma expansion cases, outperforming the 63-percent accuracy among a group of physicians from renowned hospitals across the country.

The outcomes for human physicians were quite normal and even better than the average accuracy in ordinary hospitals, said Gao Peiyi, head of the radiology department at Tiantan Hospital, a leading institution on neurology and neurosurgery.

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A radiologist reads a medical image display during a competition with BioMind, an AI system. Photo by Yuan Quan

To train the AI, developers fed it tens of thousands of images of nervous system-related diseases that the Tiantan Hospital has archived over the past 10 years, making it capable of diagnosing common neurological diseases such as meningioma and glioma with an accuracy rate of over 90 percent, comparable to that of a senior doctor.

All the cases were real and contributed by the hospital, but never used as training material for the AI, according to the organizer.

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Most radiologists are from leading Chinese hospitals, with rich experiences. Photo by Jia Zhao

Wang Yongjun, executive vice president of the Tiantan Hospital, said that he personally did not care very much about who won, because the contest was never intended to pit humans against technology but to help doctors learn and improve through interactions with technology.

"I hope through this competition, doctors can experience the power of artificial intelligence. This is especially so for some doctors who are skeptical about artificial intelligence. I hope they can further understand AI and eliminate their fears toward it," said Wang.

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Doctors discuss during the competition of predictions of brain hematoma expansion. Photo provided by Tiantan Hospital

Dr. Lin Yi who participated and lost in the second round, said that she welcomes AI, as it is not a threat but a "friend."

AI will not only reduce the workload but also push doctors to keep learning and improve their skills, said Lin.

Bian Xiuwu, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Science and a member of the competition's jury, said there has never been an absolute standard correct answer in diagnosing developing diseases, and the AI would only serve as an assistant to doctors in giving preliminary results.

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Foreigh judges raised questions to human competitors. Photo provided by Tiantan Hospital

Dr. Paul Parizel, former president of the European Society of Radiology and another member of the jury, also agreed that AI will not replace doctors, but will instead function similar to how GPS does for drivers.

Dr. Gauden Galea, representative of the World Health Organization in China, said AI is an exciting tool for healthcare but still in the primitive stages.

Based on the size of its population and the huge volume of accessible digital medical data, China has a unique advantage in developing medical AI, according to Galea.

China has introduced a series of plans in developing AI applications in recent years.

In 2017, the State Council issued a development plan on the new generation of Artificial Intelligence and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology also issued the "Three-Year Action Plan for Promoting the Development of a New Generation of Artificial Intelligence (2018-2020)."

The Action Plan proposed developing medical image-assisted diagnostic systems to support medicine in various fields. (BEIJING 2018-06-30 22:44:14)

Editor: Miao Hong

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