CDI-Type I: Collaborative Research: Gaining Knowledge from Other Patients: Structuring and Searching the content of Health-Related Web Posts ( NSF-BCS-1027801 and NSF-BCS-1027886 )

Individuals with chronic diseases rely more and more on online forums, blogs, and mailing lists to exchange information, practical tips, and stories about their conditions and to get emotional support from their peers. While this type of social networking has become central to the daily lives and decision-making processes of many patients, there has been little research on the quality of the content it conveys, as well as its use and impact in the fields of medicine and public health. On the patients' side, forums are surprisingly technologically poor: users have often no choice but to browse through massive numbers of posts while looking for a particular piece of information. The lack of appropriate tools to organize, analyze and ultimately understand the overwhelming number of health-related, patient-written posts hinders researchers from investigating this medium and hinders patients from using this medium to its full potential.

This project aims at helping both patients and health professionals access online patient-authored information by creating tools to search for information in patient forums. The proposed work spans several fields: natural language processing, data management, information retrieval, public health and behavioral medicine, and it will build the foundations for understanding peer patient posts available through online forums and mailing lists.