Towards Trustworthy Automatic Diagnosis Systems by Emulating Doctors' Reasoning with Deep Reinforcement Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Arsene Fansi Tchango, Rishab Goel, Julien Martel, Zhi Wen, Gaetan Marceau Caron, Joumana Ghosn


The automation of the medical evidence acquisition and diagnosis process has recently attracted increasing attention in order to reduce the workload of doctors and democratize access to medical care. However, most works proposed in the machine learning literature focus solely on improving the prediction accuracy of a patient's pathology. We argue that this objective is insufficient to ensure doctors' acceptability of such systems. In their initial interaction with patients, doctors do not only focus on identifying the pathology a patient is suffering from; they instead generate a differential diagnosis (in the form of a short list of plausible diseases) because the medical evidence collected from patients is often insufficient to establish a final diagnosis. Moreover, doctors explicitly explore severe pathologies before potentially ruling them out from the differential, especially in acute care settings. Finally, for doctors to trust a system's recommendations, they need to understand how the gathered evidences led to the predicted diseases. In particular, interactions between a system and a patient need to emulate the reasoning of doctors. We therefore propose to model the evidence acquisition and automatic diagnosis tasks using a deep reinforcement learning framework that considers three essential aspects of a doctor's reasoning, namely generating a differential diagnosis using an exploration-confirmation approach while prioritizing severe pathologies. We propose metrics for evaluating interaction quality based on these three aspects. We show that our approach performs better than existing models while maintaining competitive pathology prediction accuracy.