(HALF MOON BAY, Calif.) -- Many patients who suffer from diseases or medical complications comb through medical websites and forums searching for people share their pain, seeking advice and support.
But a website called HealCam gives patients a new approach to sharing their stories with others in the online community.
Much like Chatroulette, the website connects people visually at random using their webcams. Once connected, patients can share their stories, give advice and ask questions to one another face-to-face.
Dr. Michael Ostrovsky, a 41-year-old anaesthesiologist from Half Moon Bay, California, said he and his brother, Gene, started the website last June after learning about ChatRoulette.
"I think people want to talk to each other for a variety of reasons," Ostrovsky said. "People want to meet people with the same diseases and share experiences."
The brothers already run MedGadget, "an Internet journal for medical technologies," and say they know of other websites that let patients share information with the crowds. But he said they saw the potential for a site that let people share advice and experiences with one person at a time.
"I think it's good for the health-related community and patient-to-patient communication because it provides anonymity, and anonymity is important," Ostrovsky said.
Visitors to the site use a webcam to communicate with others, but they don't need to share their real names or other identifying personal information.
After signing on, patients simply select one of more than a dozen health topics they'd like to discuss -- from bones and joints to cancer to the immune system -- and then the site searches for another user who wants to talk about the same thing. Users can also indicate their gender, as well the gender of their ideal conversation partner.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio