Natalie Berkiw wants to bring Canada’s 55,000 brain tumour patients together in one place. She’s inviting their family and their friends too.

An information and education specialist for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada in London, Ont., Berkiw wants an easily accessible meeting place. The community might share information, experiences and support in a real-time environment.

So Berkiw has enhanced the Foundation’s Web site with a communications portal. Among the features is a chat room where community members can instant-message each other either one-on-one or in a multi-party conversation.

“Every three months we invite a healthcare specialist to lead the conversation,” said Berkiw. “But our main aim is to provide information, research and support groups for people across the country, mainly in rural areas where those support groups otherwise would not exist.”

The “Chat and Message” also features a forum where the community can post ideas and thoughts, offer advice or get in touch with help.

“We brainstormed a number of options trying to come up with what’s best for our population,” said Berkiw. “Ease of use was an important factor.”

What the Foundation has going is a simple form of IBM Lotus SameTime Instant Messenger. The SameTime environment can be expanded to operate as a Virtual Office, with video and audio conferencing and protected file sharing.

The IM chatbox is embedded into the Web page using Lotus Notes and Domino development, says David Wice, senior consultant at Decision Labs, Inc. in Burloak, Ont.

“The simple IM-only environment is a popular, growing choice in customer service, help desks and other public-facing operations,” said Wice.

Robert Par

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