Forecasting Individualized Disease Trajectories using Interpretable Deep Learning

Ahmed M. Alaa, Mihaela van der Schaar

Disease progression models are instrumental in predicting individual-level health trajectories and understanding disease dynamics. Existing models are capable of providing either accurate predictions of patients prognoses or clinically interpretable representations of disease pathophysiology, but not both. In this paper, we develop the phased attentive state space (PASS) model of disease progression, a deep probabilistic model that captures complex representations for disease progression while maintaining clinical interpretability. Unlike Markovian state space models which assume memoryless dynamics, PASS uses an attention mechanism to induce "memoryful" state transitions, whereby repeatedly updated attention weights are used to focus on past state realizations that best predict future states. This gives rise to complex, non-stationary state dynamics that remain interpretable through the generated attention weights, which designate the relationships between the realized state variables for individual patients. PASS uses phased LSTM units (with time gates controlled by parametrized oscillations) to generate the attention weights in continuous time, which enables handling irregularly-sampled and potentially missing medical observations. Experiments on data from a realworld cohort of patients show that PASS successfully balances the tradeoff between accuracy and interpretability: it demonstrates superior predictive accuracy and learns insightful individual-level representations of disease progression.

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