Automated critiquing of medical decision trees

The authors developed a decision tree-critiquing program (called BUNYAN) that identifies potential modeling errors in medical decision trees. The program's critiques are based on the structure of a decision problem, obtained from an abstract description specifying only the basic semantic categories of the model's components. A taxonomy of node and branch types supplies the primitive building blocks for representing decision trees. Bunyan detects potential problems in a model by matching general pattern expressions that refer to these primitives. A small set of general principles justifies critiquing rules that detect four categories of potential structural problems: impossible strategies, dominated strategies, unaccountable violations of symmetry, and omission of apparently reasonable strategies. Although critiquing based on structure alone has clear limitations, principled structural analysis constitutes the core of a methodology for reasoning about decision models.