The Ferguson Report
Number 4 · June, 1999
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Key Concepts in Online Health:
Eva Salber's Natural Helpers

One of my most important teachers, back in my med school days, was Eva Salber, MD, Professor of Community Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine. Eva believed that there are in every community a small sub-population of altruistic people who provide their friends and neighbors with a surprising amount of health information, advice, and support. Eva called such people "natural helpers." She felt that such natural helpers, overlooked and unacknowledged as they were, are important healthcare providers, perhaps the most important providers of all.  [ ... more]

News You Can Use:
Online Health Sales of $1.7 Billion Predicted by 2003

Online health product sales will reach $1.7 billion by 2003, according to a recent market research report by New York's Jupiter Communications. Other key predictions from the report are found in the article.  [ ... more]

Upcoming Meetings:
Intel Internet Health Day II
New York, October 12, 1999

Tools of the Trade:
The Tradecraft of Online Self-Help Group Leaders

I first learned about the skills required to create and nurture online support communities from an extraordinary online support group leader named Glenna Tallman, who started several pioneering online self-help groups in 1994. Glenna's Garden, the cancer support and information area on AOL's Better Health forum, is named in her honor.  [ ... more]

Your Contributions to Our Next Issue

We invite your input for future issues. We're especially interested in your suggestions for Sites 2B Seen, Recommended Reading, Industry News & Gossip, and your questions for Doctom's FAQ. We also welcome your criticisms, comments, love notes, death threats, wild ideas, unfounded rumors, rants, raves, and press releases.  [ ... more]

Sites 2B Seen:
Lifestyle assessments at

Recommended by Ed Madara. Ed comments: "You can complete the first [of the lifestyle] assessments in two minutes or less. The second goes into greater detail and takes about ten minutes. I'm surprised that more health sites don't provide their visitors with engaging assessments like these. They can be extremely valuable to those who are seeking to take more control of their health."  [ ... more]

Doctom's FAQ:
Beyond 'Shovelware'

by Tom Ferguson, M.D.

Q. You recently came to our hospital to help us upgrade our Web site and develop a plan for provider-patient e-mail and other online patient services. While you were here, you referred to the consumer content on our hospital's Web site as 'shovelware' and suggested that we should supplement it with 'interactive' resources. What in the world is 'shovelware,' what are interactive resources, and why are they superior?  [ ... more]

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© Copyright 1999 Tom Ferguson, M.D. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form without prior written permission is prohibited. ISSN 1520-5487. For active players in the online health revolution.