Improving the accuracy of medical diagnosis with causal machine learning
Nat Commun . 2020 Aug 11;11(1):3923. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-17419-7.
Jonathan G Richens, Ciarán M Lee, Saurabh Johri
Machine learning promises to revolutionize clinical decision making and diagnosis. In medical diagnosis a doctor aims to explain a patient's symptoms by determining the diseases causing them. However, existing machine learning approaches to diagnosis are purely associative, identifying diseases that are strongly correlated with a patients symptoms. We show that this inability to disentangle correlation from causation can result in sub-optimal or dangerous diagnoses. To overcome this, we reformulate diagnosis as a counterfactual inference task and derive counterfactual diagnostic algorithms. We compare our counterfactual algorithms to the standard associative algorithm and 44 doctors using a test set of clinical vignettes. While the associative algorithm achieves an accuracy placing in the top 48% of doctors in our cohort, our counterfactual algorithm places in the top 25% of doctors, achieving expert clinical accuracy. Our results show that causal reasoning is a vital missing ingredient for applying machine learning to medical diagnosis.
Read Full Article Here: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17419-7