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Reinforcement Learning in Healthcare: A Survey

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

As a subfield of machine learning, \emph{reinforcement learning} (RL) aims at empowering one's capabilities in behavioural decision making by using interaction experience with the world and an evaluative feedback. Unlike traditional supervised learning methods that usually rely on one-shot, exhaustive and supervised reward signals, RL tackles with sequential decision making problems with sampled, evaluative and delayed feedback simultaneously. Such distinctive features make RL technique a suitable candidate for developing powerful solutions in a variety of healthcare domains, where diagnosing decisions or treatment regimes are usually characterized by a prolonged and sequential procedure. This survey will discuss the broad applications of RL techniques in healthcare domains, in order to provide the research community with systematic understanding of theoretical foundations, enabling methods and techniques, existing challenges, and new insights of this emerging paradigm. By first briefly examining theoretical foundations and key techniques in RL research from efficient and representational directions, we then provide an overview of RL applications in a variety of healthcare domains, ranging from dynamic treatment regimes in chronic diseases and critical care, automated medical diagnosis from both unstructured and structured clinical data, as well as many other control or scheduling domains that have infiltrated many aspects of a healthcare system. Finally, we summarize the challenges and open issues in current research, and point out some potential solutions and directions for future research.


Deep Reinforcement Learning for Clinical Decision Support: A Brief Survey

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Owe to the recent advancements in Artificial Intelligence especially deep learning, many data-driven decision support systems have been implemented to facilitate medical doctors in delivering personalized care. We focus on the deep reinforcement learning (DRL) models in this paper. DRL models have demonstrated human-level or even superior performance in the tasks of computer vision and game playings, such as Go and Atari game. However, the adoption of deep reinforcement learning techniques in clinical decision optimization is still rare. We here present the first survey that summarizes reinforcement learning algorithms with Deep Neural Networks (DNN) on clinical decision support. We also discuss some case studies, where different DRL algorithms were applied to address various clinical challenges. We further compare and contrast the advantages and limitations of various DRL algorithms and present a preliminary guide on how to choose the appropriate DRL algorithm for particular clinical applications.


Artificial Intelligence Framework for Simulating Clinical Decision-Making: A Markov Decision Process Approach

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

In the modern healthcare system, rapidly expanding costs/complexity, the growing myriad of treatment options, and exploding information streams that often do not effectively reach the front lines hinder the ability to choose optimal treatment decisions over time. The goal in this paper is to develop a general purpose (non-disease-specific) computational/artificial intelligence (AI) framework to address these challenges. This serves two potential functions: 1) a simulation environment for exploring various healthcare policies, payment methodologies, etc., and 2) the basis for clinical artificial intelligence - an AI that can think like a doctor. This approach combines Markov decision processes and dynamic decision networks to learn from clinical data and develop complex plans via simulation of alternative sequential decision paths while capturing the sometimes conflicting, sometimes synergistic interactions of various components in the healthcare system. It can operate in partially observable environments (in the case of missing observations or data) by maintaining belief states about patient health status and functions as an online agent that plans and re-plans. This framework was evaluated using real patient data from an electronic health record. Such an AI framework easily outperforms the current treatment-as-usual (TAU) case-rate/fee-for-service models of healthcare (Cost per Unit Change: $189 vs. $497) while obtaining a 30-35% increase in patient outcomes. Tweaking certain model parameters further enhances this advantage, obtaining roughly 50% more improvement for roughly half the costs. Given careful design and problem formulation, an AI simulation framework can approximate optimal decisions even in complex and uncertain environments. Future work is described that outlines potential lines of research and integration of machine learning algorithms for personalized medicine.


Improving Sepsis Treatment Strategies by Combining Deep and Kernel-Based Reinforcement Learning

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Sepsis is the leading cause of mortality in the ICU. It is challenging to manage because individual patients respond differently to treatment. Thus, tailoring treatment to the individual patient is essential for the best outcomes. In this paper, we take steps toward this goal by applying a mixture-of-experts framework to personalize sepsis treatment. The mixture model selectively alternates between neighbor-based (kernel) and deep reinforcement learning (DRL) experts depending on patient's current history. On a large retrospective cohort, this mixture-based approach outperforms physician, kernel only, and DRL-only experts.


Evaluating Reinforcement Learning Algorithms in Observational Health Settings

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Much attention has been devoted recently to the development of machine learning algorithms with the goal of improving treatment policies in healthcare. Reinforcement learning (RL) is a sub-field within machine learning that is concerned with learning how to make sequences of decisions so as to optimize long-term effects. Already, RL algorithms have been proposed to identify decision-making strategies for mechanical ventilation, sepsis management and treatment of schizophrenia. However, before implementing treatment policies learned by black-box algorithms in high-stakes clinical decision problems, special care must be taken in the evaluation of these policies. In this document, our goal is to expose some of the subtleties associated with evaluating RL algorithms in healthcare. We aim to provide a conceptual starting point for clinical and computational researchers to ask the right questions when designing and evaluating algorithms for new ways of treating patients. In the following, we describe how choices about how to summarize a history, variance of statistical estimators, and confounders in more ad-hoc measures can result in unreliable, even misleading estimates of the quality of a treatment policy. We also provide suggestions for mitigating these effects---for while there is much promise for mining observational health data to uncover better treatment policies, evaluation must be performed thoughtfully.