It looks like everyone wants a piece of the healthcare cake – and Facebook is no different. A report from Reuters hints that the Social Media company is looking to enter the still nascent and booming healthcare industry. In particular, the company is looking to help usher the industry into the 21st century. The news of these plans comes off the heels of Google, Apple and Samsung announcing their health focused platforms earlier this year.
The move is quite unexpected but according to three insiders, it’s not something new. The social media giant, Facebook, has apparently had this plan on the back burners for a while as it focused on other projects. However, unlike Google, Apple and Samsung, Facebook is not apparently looking to move into “support communities” where patients and users can freely voice their experiences and qualms when it comes to facing a disease. This concept is allegedly still in the idea collection phase of planning. In addition to their “support communities” initiative, Facebook is looking to create “preventative care” applications with the aim of helping users adopt healthier lifestyles. Unlike other initiatives in the healthcare sector, this move by Facebook is a ostensibly aimed at increasing engagement and activity on its own platform.
This move into healthcare comes after Facebook saw much success in the U.S. once it introduced its organ donor status on the site. The success was seen in the 21-fold increase in organ donor registration the day Facebook introduced the feature. Also, the social media giant’s product team have observed that many people facing numerous ailments have been searching their site for advice among other things. In addition, the emergence of online communities surrounding diseases such as PatientsLikeMe have been taken as indicators of the increasing number of patients who are comfortable talking about their experiences, treatments and symptoms online.
Facebook looks to be going full steam ahead with the plans and has been busy meeting with industry experts and healthcare entrepreneurs in an effort to set up a research and development unit focused on its new healthcare apps. Reuters also speculated that the recent decision by Facebook to loosen its real name policy is an indication that they may be looking at making it possible for certain patients to share anonymously on the platform.
Of course, Facebook’s reputation with privacy and its recent admission and apology that they manipulated users’ news feeds to gather data for alleged research, doesn’t do much when it comes down to user privacy. Although, sources are indicating that Facebook is planning to release this initiative as a separate standalone application, under a different name not unlike Facebook’s other application Instagram.