Federated Split Task-Agnostic Vision Transformer for COVID-19 CXR Diagnosis

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Sangjoon Park, Gwanghyun Kim, Jeongsol Kim, Boah Kim, Jong Chul Ye


Federated learning, which shares the weights of the neural network across clients, is gaining attention in the healthcare sector as it enables training on a large corpus of decentralized data while maintaining data privacy. For example, this enables neural network training for COVID-19 diagnosis on chest X-ray (CXR) images without collecting patient CXR data across multiple hospitals. Unfortunately, the exchange of the weights quickly consumes the network bandwidth if highly expressive network architecture is employed. So-called split learning partially solves this problem by dividing a neural network into a client and a server part, so that the client part of the network takes up less extensive computation resources and bandwidth. However, it is not clear how to find the optimal split without sacrificing the overall network performance. To amalgamate these methods and thereby maximize their distinct strengths, here we show that the Vision Transformer, a recently developed deep learning architecture with straightforward decomposable configuration, is ideally suitable for split learning without sacrificing performance. Even under the non-independent and identically distributed data distribution which emulates a real collaboration between hospitals using CXR datasets from multiple sources, the proposed framework was able to attain performance comparable to data-centralized training. In addition, the proposed framework along with heterogeneous multi-task clients also improves individual task performances including the diagnosis of COVID-19, eliminating the need for sharing large weights with innumerable parameters. Our results affirm the suitability of Transformer for collaborative learning in medical imaging and pave the way forward for future real-world implementations.