Keywords: Vision-Language Modelling, Contrastive Learning, Chest X-Ray
TL;DR: This work explores several methods for adapting vision-language modelling contrastive frameworks such as CLIP to much smaller training datasets typical in medical imaging.
Abstract: This paper explores training medical vision-language models (VLMs) -- where the visual and language inputs are embedded into a common space -- with a particular focus on scenarios where training data is limited, as is often the case in clinical datasets. We explore several candidate methods to improve low-data performance, including: (i) adapting generic pre-trained models to novel image and text domains (i.e.\ medical imaging and reports) via unimodal self-supervision; (ii) using local (e.g.\ GLoRIA) \& global (e.g. InfoNCE) contrastive loss functions as well as a combination of the two; (iii) extra supervision during VLM training, via: (a) image- and text-only self-supervision, and (b) creating additional positive image-text pairs for training through augmentation and nearest-neighbour search. Using text-to-image retrieval as a benchmark, we evaluate the performance of these methods with variable sized training datasets of paired chest X-rays and radiological reports. Combined, they significantly improve retrieval compared to fine-tuning CLIP, roughly equivalent to training with $10\times$ the data. A similar pattern is found in the downstream task classification of CXR-related conditions with our method outperforming CLIP and also BioVIL, a strong CXR VLM benchmark, in the zero-shot and linear probing settings. We conclude with a set of recommendations for researchers aiming to train vision-language models on other medical imaging modalities when training data is scarce. To facilitate further research, we will make our code and models publicly available.