Your Health On Facebook? Report Suggests The Company Will Create Healthcare Communities & Wellness Apps

Facebook is looking to get into the healthcare business, according to a report today by Reuters. Citing three unnamed “people familiar with the matter,” Reuters said the social network is exploring the creation of online “support communities” to connect Facebook users suffering from various illnesses and new “preventive care” applications to help people improve their […]

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Facebook is looking to get into the healthcare business, according to a report today by Reuters.

Citing three unnamed “people familiar with the matter,” Reuters said the social network is exploring the creation of online “support communities” to connect Facebook users suffering from various illnesses and new “preventive care” applications to help people improve their lifestyles.

The effort, seen by Facebook executives as a way to increase engagement on the network, was partly prompted by the fact that people increasingly feel comfortable discussing their health online, including Facebook. From the Reuters story:

One catalyst: the unexpected success of Facebook’s “organ-donor status initiative,” introduced in 2012. The day that Facebook altered profile pages to allow members to specify their organ donor-status, 13,054 people registered to be organ donors online in the United States, a 21 fold increase over the daily average of 616 registrations, according to a June 2013 study published in the American Journal of Transplantation.

Separately, Facebook product teams noticed that people with chronic ailments such as diabetes would search the social networking site for advice, said one former Facebook insider. In addition, the proliferation of patient networks such as PatientsLikeMe demonstrate that people are increasingly comfortable sharing symptoms and treatment experiences online.

Targeting advertising at these communities would be tricky, if not impossible. Facebook prohibits ads promoting the sale of pharmaceuticals, but other providers of health products no doubt would be interested in reaching people in these communities.

But Facebook especially will need to tread lightly considering the issues it has had with privacy over the years. This week it apologized for manipulating people’s News Feeds in an experiment, promising to tighten its research guidelines.

It will have to be especially careful when explaining to users how their health data will be used. People participating in forums about serious or sensitive illnesses will want assurances of anonymity and targeted ads that make mention of ailments could be off-putting, even creepy.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Martin Beck
Contributor
Martin Beck was Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter from March 2014 through December 2015.

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