Facebook enters the healthcare arena


Facebook is planning to enter the digital healthcare arena and is looking at ways to optimise its current social network for this purpose.

The group is planning to create online ‘support communities’ which would allow Facebook users suffering from the same ailments and illnesses to connect with each other.

They have also mentioned offering preventative care apps, which will be designed to provide information and improve users’ lifestyle.

Facebook has had meetings with experts in the medical industry and entrepreneurs, and have established a research and development unit to test their new health-oriented apps.

The company’s confidence was boosted by the results of their organ-donor drive during 2012, which allowed users to choose their status. On the first day of registration, in excess of 13000 Americans placed their names on the list. This is 21 times more than the average daily registrations of physical lists.

Facebook states that many of their users use the site to search for advice on chronic illnesses, such as diabetes.

There has been a surge in online patient networks, such as PatientsLikeMe, which state that people have become more willing to share their physical status online.

The one challenging area the company faces is privacy as they have had to endure a huge amount of criticism in this area over the years.

Advertisements relating to health will not be targeted as others are on the site. For instance, pharmaceutical companies will not be allowed to use Facebook to promote sales of prescription drugs, due to the disclosure concerns surrounding this.

The company is considering the production of its first health app under a different name.

The chief executive of Evolent Health, a company providing services and software to health systems and doctors, Frank Williams, said people require anonymity and assurance that their comments and data will not be shared with their online contacts, pharmaceutical companies or advertisers.

It is not clear if shared content in the communities will be moderated by Facebook or if they will make use of external medical experts to provide the service.

Image Credit: Sarah Marshall


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