Clinician-in-the-loop Decision Making: Reinforcement Learning with Near-Optimal Set-Valued Policies


Standard reinforcement learning (RL) aims to find an optimal policy that identifies the best action for each state. However, in healthcare settings, many actions may be near-equivalent with respect to the reward (e.g., survival). We consider an alternative objective – learning set-valued policies to capture near-equivalent actions that lead to similar cumulative rewards. We propose a model-free algorithm based on temporal difference learning and a near-greedy heuristic for action selection. We analyze the theoretical properties of the proposed algorithm, providing optimality guarantees and demonstrate our approach on simulated environments and a real clinical task. Empirically, the proposed algorithm exhibits good convergence properties and discovers meaningful near-equivalent actions. Our work provides theoretical, as well as practical, foundations for clinician/human-in-the-loop decision making, in which humans (e.g., clinicians, patients) can incorporate additional knowledge (e.g., side effects, patient preference) when selecting among near-equivalent actions.

Proceedings of the 37th International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML 2020)
Shengpu Tang
Shengpu Tang
PhD candidate