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Vagelis Hristidis

Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
Vagelis Hristidis
Improving Healthcare Services Through Social Media
What if the information and feedback we provide online could be used to improve the healthcare services we receive and tailor them to our preferences? More and more people are providing reviews of their interactions with healthcare professionals, giving opinions along with location information and the outcomes they experienced. With expertise in databases, health informatics, social networks and information retrieval, UCR computer scientist Vagelis Hristidis is putting the power of social media to work in order to turn data into improved health outcomes.

Aiming to make the information in databases easily accessible and useful, Hristidis co-founded SmartDocFinder, a big data-driven service to match patients with healthcare providers in a personalized manner. In order to deliver tailored recommendations, SmartDocFinder employs unique data aggregation, machine learning, personality profiling, and text analytics techniques to extract and combine the right knowledge from a wide range of data sources, from health outcome metrics to provider reviews, so patients can make informed decisions about the care they receive.

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Information discovery in various domains including intellectual property, bibliographic, clinical and biological databases
  • Big data analytics
  • Presentation and navigation of query results
  • Search relational and semi-structured databases
  • Social networks
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Select Honors and Distinctions

  • FIU School of Computing and Information Sciences Research Award, 2010
  • Google Research Award, 2010
  • IBM Scalable Data Analytics for A Smarter Planet Innovation Award, 2010
  • NSF CAREER Award, 2010-2015
  • Kauffmann Foundation Entrepreneurship Award, 2008
  • FIU Faculty Research Award, 2008
  • FIU School of Computing and Information Sciences Research Award, 2006
  • DIMACS Scholar, Summer 2002
  • Eugenidou Foundation Scholarship, 2000-2002

Latest Research


Q: What is the focus of your research?
The focus of my research is searching and analysis complex data. There is a huge amount of data generated everyday and if we could search it and analyze it we can improve the lives of people. For instance, by finding the right diagnosis and treatment for a patient by looking for correlations among these large amounts of data.

Q: How does your research bring technology advances to healthcare?
We use the connections between the data to draw correlations that would help patients find the best healthcare professional for their condition. For instance, if two diseases are connected and we know which doctors treat one disease well, those same doctors may also treat the similar disease in the same way. Same would be with hospitals, if there is a connection between a doctor and hospital, if a hospital is doing well with a disease the doctor affiliated with that hospital may also be doing well in treating that disease.

Q: Explain the website you've developed and how it works.
To make the research more applicable to everyday problems we have built SmartDoc Finder which is a technology that helps patients match with healthcare providers. The idea is that as a patient would go there and specify their preference and health needs. The system will then find the most suitable provider for that patient. This project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, which is helping commercialize the idea.

Q: What other potential applications are there for your research?
This research can be applied to many different types of data. In addition to healthcare, it can be applied to certain bibliographical data for researching publications, as well as, the intelligence domain where it can be used to investigate crimes using social network data. Also, we have analyzed the correlation of social network data to stock market performance. Listening to the chatter on Twitter, for example, may predict the cost of stocks in the stock market.

Q: What do you see this research leading to in the future?
In the future, we want to serve the user information before they ask for it. Currently, search systems are based on queries where one would ask for information and get a result. But through this research, the system would know what the user is looking for and serve it to the user before asking for it.

Q: Why is your research important?
My research helps translate large amounts of data to make informed decisions. There is a push to advance technology and gain a competitive advantage. But sometimes there is not enough time to think about the impacts of that technology.  By analyzing the data, problems can be anticipated before becoming a problem in the first place.

Q: What motivates you?
I am motivated to build a new system that can help people be more productive. A system that is noble and can be used by many people. Something that is innovative and can be used to make people’s lives better and easier to manage.