How, for whom, and in what contexts will artificial intelligence be adopted in pathology? A realist interview study

Interviews on the direction of adoption of AI in digital pathology with input from over 20 pathology medical professionals.


There is increasing interest in using artificial intelligence (AI) in pathology to improve accuracy and efficiency. Studies of clinicians’ perceptions of AI have found only moderate acceptability, suggesting further research is needed regarding integration into clinical practice. This study aimed to explore stakeholders’ theories concerning how and in what contexts AI is likely to become integrated into pathology.


Materials and Methods

A literature review provided tentative theories that were revised through a realist interview study with 20 pathologists and 5 pathology trainees. Questions sought to elicit whether, and in what ways, the tentative theories fitted with interviewees’ perceptions and experiences. Analysis focused on identifying the contextual factors that may support or constrain uptake of AI in pathology.



Interviews highlighted the importance of trust in AI, with interviewees emphasizing evaluation and the opportunity for pathologists to become familiar with AI as means for establishing trust. Interviewees expressed a desire to be involved in design and implementation of AI tools, to ensure such tools address pressing needs, but needs vary by subspecialty. Workflow integration is desired but whether AI tools should work automatically will vary according to the task and the context.



It must not be assumed that AI tools that provide benefit in one subspecialty will provide benefit in others. Pathologists should be involved in the decision to introduce AI, with opportunity to assess strengths and weaknesses. Further research is needed concerning the evidence required to satisfy pathologists regarding the benefits of AI.

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Source: Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, ocac254,

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