Google Research

Human-Centered Tools for Coping with Imperfect Algorithms during Medical Decision-Making

Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2019)

Abstract

Machine learning (ML) is increasingly being used in image retrieval systems for medical decision making. One application of ML is to retrieve visually similar medical images from past patients (e.g. tissue from biopsies) to reference when making a medical decision with a new patient. However, no algorithm can perfectly capture an expert's ideal notion of similarity for every case: an image that is algorithmically determined to be similar may not be medically relevant to a doctor's specific diagnostic needs. In this paper, we identified the needs of pathologists when searching for similar images retrieved using a deep learning algorithm, and developed tools that empower users to cope with the search algorithm on-the-fly, communicating what types of similarity are most important at different moments in time. In two evaluations with pathologists, we found that these refinement tools increased the diagnostic utility of images found and increased user trust in the algorithm. The tools were preferred over a traditional interface, without a loss in diagnostic accuracy. We also observed that users adopted new strategies when using refinement tools, re-purposing them to test and understand the underlying algorithm and to disambiguate ML errors from their own errors. Taken together, these findings inform future human-ML collaborative systems for expert decision-making.

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