Skip to Main Content
As an important information portal, online healthcare forum are playing an increasingly crucial role in disseminating information and offering support to people. It connects people with the leading medical experts and others who have similar experiences. During an epidemic outbreak, such as H1N1, it is critical for the health department to understand how the public is responding to the ongoing pandemic, which has a great impact on the social stability. In this case, identifying influential users in the online healthcare forum and tracking the information spreading in such online community can be an effective way to understand the public reaction toward the disease. In this paper, we propose a framework to monitor and identify influential users from online healthcare forum. We first develop a mechanism to identify and construct social networks from the discussion board of an online healthcare forum. We propose the UserRank algorithm which combines link analysis and content analysis techniques to identify influential users. We have also conducted an experiment to evaluate our approach on the Swine Flu forum which is a sub-community of a popular online healthcare community, MedHelp (www.medhelp.org). Experimental results show that our technique outperforms PageRank, in-degree and out-degree centrality in identifying influential user from an online healthcare forum.