Patient Summit Europe

Jun 25, 2015 - Jun 26, 2015, London

Build trust: redesign your company around a better patient experience

Patients and the Web: Creating online communities of care

Claudia M. Caruana reports on how is trying to empower patients online

It’s 3 a.m. and you can’t sleep because you are worried about your diabetes. Is there another kindred soul who might want to talk with you about your concerns now? If you check with, there just might be.

Available since the summer of 2010, is a free video chat service, sometimes called chat roulette, letting patients speak with other patients who may have similar medical conditions and concerns. It is the brainchild of two physicians, Michael Ostrevsky, an anesthesiologist based outside of San Francisco, and Nicholas Genes, an emergency room specialist at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. is an offshoot of Medgadget, LLC, an independent blog site about medical devices and tools founded by the two physicians and Ostrevsky's brother, Gene. It is a privately held company.

What people particularly like about says Ostrevsky “is that no registration is required, and you can see with whom you are chatting, or you can choose not to.”  

According to Ostrevsky, the site can be likened to a large meeting room, where you can go from person to person and chat about whatever with whomever. At present, several topic rooms already are available, including weight loss, kidney and urinary disorders, diabetes, cancer, bones and joints. Several others, he says, will be coming online in the future.

The need for information is one of several websites that have been developed recently to meld information technology and medicine for consumers and patients. One of the better known is, based in Cambridge, Mass. and developed by three Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers, brothers Benjamin and James Heywood, and their friend, Jeff Cole.

The website, which went live in 2004, was inspired by the Heywood family’s need for information when another brother, Stephen, developed ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) at age 29. One difference between and is that does not require users to register on the site.  

When Ostrevsky was designing the platform, he believed people would be interested in discussing what ails them, what worked for their health problems, and what did not. “Although we initially thought the service would attract young people, it wasn't the case,” he says. “With so many middle-age and older people able to use computers, we've found that the site is particularly of interest and helpful to them, many of whom have medical issues.”

A feature about on ABC News increased traffic “tremendously, sometimes reaching as many as 2,000 conversations in a day,” Ostrevsky says. But the number of visits has dropped considerably, probably because “we have no budget for advertising or publicizing the website,” according to Ostrevsky.

It is not unusual to have a lone person on the site, waiting for someone else to show up in the designated chat area. “ is a concept whose time has come,” Ostrevsky stresses. “We'd just like more people coming to it.”

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Patient Summit Europe

Jun 25, 2015 - Jun 26, 2015, London

Build trust: redesign your company around a better patient experience

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