Current medical question answering systems have difficulty processing long, detailed and informally worded questions submitted by patients, called Consumer Health Questions (CHQs). To address this issue, we introduce a medical question understanding and answering system with knowledge grounding and semantic self-supervision. Our system is a pipeline that first summarizes a long, medical, user-written question, using a supervised summarization loss. Then, our system performs a two-step retrieval to return answers. The system first matches the summarized user question with an FAQ from a trusted medical knowledge base, and then retrieves a fixed number of relevant sentences from the corresponding answer document. In the absence of labels for question matching or answer relevance, we design 3 novel, self-supervised and semantically-guided losses. We evaluate our model against two strong retrieval-based question answering baselines. Evaluators ask their own questions and rate the answers retrieved by our baselines and own system according to their relevance. They find that our system retrieves more relevant answers, while achieving speeds 20 times faster. Our self-supervised losses also help the summarizer achieve higher scores in ROUGE, as well as in human evaluation metrics.
Understanding the intent of medical questions asked by patients, or Consumer Health Questions, is an essential skill for medical Conversational AI systems. We propose a novel data-augmented and simple joint learning approach combining question summarization and Recognizing Question Entailment (RQE) in the medical domain. Our data augmentation approach enables to use just one dataset for joint learning. We show improvements on both tasks across four biomedical datasets in accuracy (+8%), ROUGE-1 (+2.5%) and human evaluation scores. Human evaluation shows joint learning generates faithful and informative summaries. Finally, we release our code, the two question summarization datasets extracted from a large-scale medical dialogue dataset, as well as our augmented datasets.
Users of medical question answering systems often submit long and detailed questions, making it hard to achieve high recall in answer retrieval. To alleviate this problem, we propose a novel Multi-Task Learning (MTL) method with data augmentation for medical question understanding. We first establish an equivalence between the tasks of question summarization and Recognizing Question Entailment (RQE) using their definitions in the medical domain. Based on this equivalence, we propose a data augmentation algorithm to use just one dataset to optimize for both tasks, with a weighted MTL loss. We introduce gradually soft parameter-sharing: a constraint for decoder parameters to be close, that is gradually loosened as we move to the highest layer. We show through ablation studies that our proposed novelties improve performance. Our method outperforms existing MTL methods across 4 datasets of medical question pairs, in ROUGE scores, RQE accuracy and human evaluation. Finally, we show that our method fares better than single-task learning under 4 low-resource settings.
Syntactic structure is an important component of natural language text. Recent top-performing models in Answer Sentence Selection (AS2) use self-attention and transfer learning, but not syntactic structure. Tree structures have shown strong performance in tasks with sentence pair input like semantic relatedness. We investigate whether tree structures can boost performance in AS2. We introduce the Tree Aggregation Transformer: a novel recursive, tree-structured self-attention model for AS2. The recursive nature of our model is able to represent all levels of syntactic parse trees with only one additional self-attention layer. Without transfer learning, we establish a new state of the art on the popular TrecQA and WikiQA benchmark datasets. Additionally, we evaluate our method on four Community Question Answering datasets, and find that tree-structured representations have limitations with noisy user-generated text. We conduct probing experiments to evaluate how our models leverage tree structures across datasets. Our findings show that the ability of tree-structured models to successfully absorb syntactic information is strongly correlated with a higher performance in AS2.
In this paper, we describe our approach to question summarization and multi-answer summarization in the context of the 2021 MEDIQA shared task (Ben Abacha et al., 2021). We propose two kinds of transfer learning for the abstractive summarization of medical questions. First, we train on HealthCareMagic, a large question summarization dataset collected from an online healthcare service platform. Second, we leverage the ability of the BART encoder-decoder architecture to model both generation and classification tasks to train on the task of Recognizing Question Entailment (RQE) in the medical domain. We show that both transfer learning methods combined achieve the highest ROUGE scores. Finally, we cast the question-driven extractive summarization of multiple relevant answer documents as an Answer Sentence Selection (AS2) problem. We show how we can preprocess the MEDIQA-AnS dataset such that it can be trained in an AS2 setting. Our AS2 model is able to generate extractive summaries achieving high ROUGE scores.