Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Zhao, Kang

Second Advisor

Reddy, Sudhakar M.

First Committee Member

Zhou, Xun

Second Committee Member

Canahuate, Guadalupe M.


Online Health Communities (OHCs) have positively disrupted the modern global healthcare system as patients and caregivers are interacting online with similar peers to improve quality of their life. Social support is the pillar of OHCs and, hence, analyzing the different types of social support activities contributes to a better understanding and prediction of future user engagement in OHCs.

This thesis used data from a popular OHC, called, to first classify user posts in the community into the different categories of social support using Word2Vec for language processing and six different classifiers were explored, resulting in the conclusion that Random Forest was the best approach for classification of the user posts. This exercise helped identify the different types of social support activities that users participate in and also detect the most common type of social support activity among users in the community.

Thereafter, three trajectory-based methods were proposed and implemented to predict user churn (attrition) from the OHC. Comparison of the proposed trajectory-based methods with two non-trajectory-based benchmark methods helped establish that user trajectories, which represent the month-to-month change in the type of social support activity of users are effective pointers for user churn from the community.

The results and findings from this thesis could help OHC managers better understand the needs of users in the community and take necessary steps to improve user retention and community management.


Churn Prediction, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Online Health Communities, Text Classification, Trajectory Mining


viii, 35 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 33-35).


Copyright © 2018 Apoorva Joshi