Ordinal Neural Network Transformation Models: Deep and interpretable regression models for ordinal outcomes

by   Lucas Kook, et al.

Outcomes with a natural order commonly occur in prediction tasks and oftentimes the available input data are a mixture of complex data, like images, and tabular predictors. Although deep Learning (DL) methods have shown outstanding performance on image classification, most models treat ordered outcomes as unordered and lack interpretability. In contrast, classical ordinal regression models yield interpretable predictor effects but are limited to tabular input data. Here, we present the highly modular class of ordinal neural network transformation models (ONTRAMs). Transformation models use a parametric transformation function and a simple distribution to trade off flexibility and interpretability of individual model components. In ONTRAMs, this trade-off is achieved by additively decomposing the transformation function into terms for the tabular and image data using a set of jointly trained neural networks. We show that the most flexible ONTRAMs achieve on-par performance with DL classifiers while outperforming them in training speed. We discuss how to interpret components of ONTRAMs in general and in the case of correlated tabular and image data. Taken together, ONTRAMs join benefits of DL and distributional regression to create interpretable prediction models for ordinal outcomes.



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