Briefly Noted: HealCam, the creation of California anesthesiologist Michael Ostrovsky and his brother Gene, hooks up patients who share the same diseases for live webcam chats in which they can talk about treatment, share symptoms, or just offer each other support and camaraderie. It shows how information technologies can offer ways around policies that position physicians as the gatekeepers of all things medical.

Ostrovsky was inspired by ChatRoulette, the hugely popular site that links up random strangers for live webcam chats. But while ChatRoulette is purposeless fun, HealCam is a boon for those suffering from rare diseases whose treatments may still be experimental or for which traditional support groups may be hard to find. —Radley Balko

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